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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Carolyn Jong, Humanities

Bringing Politics Into It: Organizing at the Intersection of Videogames and Academia

Date & time
Thursday, April 9, 2020
12 p.m. – 3 p.m.

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Jennifer Sachs



When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


This dissertation explores the structural and ideological roots of GamerGate and the Alt-Right within the game industry and academia. The analysis draws on the author’s personal experiences engaging in feminist community organizing, an examination of online materials associated with GamerGate, as well as various strands of critical theory, to interrogate the material reproduction of liberal ideology and meritocracy within neoliberal capitalism. Using the recent “culture wars” in videogames and academia as an example, the author argues that liberal capitalist institutions pave the way, both materially and ideologically, for the rise of fascist movements during periods of capitalist crisis, creating a social context that is oriented towards scapegoating oppressed people and reinforcing existing hierarchies. While the specific targets, symbols, and strategies used by fascist movements may change to reflect the changing circumstances, there are also many similarities that can be found between early 20th-century fascism, and contemporary neo-fascist movements like the Alt-Right.

The problems marginalized people encounter in both games and academia are a product of capitalism and its historical development, including the international division of labour created by imperialism and patriarchy. Whether we’re talking about targeted harassment, the emergence of reactionary movements like GamerGate, institutionalized discrimination, exclusionary and constrained definitions of play and games, or the culture of overwork, capitalism and the drive for profit lies at the root. Previous attempts to address these issues through corporate diversity initiatives, indie game entrepreneurialism, consumer activism, and merit-based selection processes are limited by the fact that they do not directly challenge capitalist social relations. In order to both expose those limits and move past them, feminist organizers need an anti-capitalist political strategy that leverages the latent power of the international working class to challenge imperialism, colonialism, and patriarchy.

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