Decolonizing Popular Medievalism: The Case of Game of Thrones

Kavita Mudan Finn has posted her paper for the panel “Building Inclusivity and Diversity: Challenges, Solutions, and Responses in Medieval Studies” on her personal blog here. This panel, organized by Dr. Nahir Otaño Gracia with the support of MoC, convened at the 2018 Meeting of the Medieval Academy of America. Dr. Finn offers us a brief excerpt below.

This paper offers a specific test case for how one might begin to decolonize popular medievalism from within, a process that has already begun and that I have watched with great interest over the past year. On July 30, 2017, the Twitter hashtag for Game of Thrones was overtaken by a protest (#NoConfederate) against the creators’ new proposed series for HBO that imagined an alternate universe where the Confederacy had successfully seceded from the Union and still openly practiced slavery. This convergence of media attention and activism also brought to the forefront conversations about Game of Thrones’ deeply problematic attitude toward race and racism—one that draws on scholarship about the actual Middle Ages as well as discourses concerning race theory and the rise of white supremacist movements in the United States over the past several years. With a media property as widespread and popular as Game of Thrones, it is at least possible to alter the larger public view of the Middle Ages, but in order to do so, popular medievalism must take a good, hard look at the kinds of narratives it is perpetuating and the damage those narratives are doing.

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