MIT pushes book exposing 'imperialist reasoning' of board games like 'Snakes and Ladders' and chess

'These seemingly benign entertainments reinforce the logic of imperialism.'

Other recommended books explored topics like the 'logic of imperialism' in popular board games and how to combat climate change 'misinformation and denial.'

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recommended summer reading list of recent works from faculty and staff features subjects like “imperialism” in board games, neoliberalism, ”queer black womanhood,” and climate change.

One of the suggested books was Playing Oppression: The Legacy of Conquest and Empire in Colonialist Board Games, which analyzes board games’ use of “imperialist reasoning.” According to its description, the book’s authors, including MIT lecturer Mikael Jakobsson, “apply the incisive frameworks of postcolonial theory to a broad historical survey of board games to show how these seemingly benign entertainments reinforce the logic of imperialism.”

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Playing Oppression also argues that modern-day versions of games such as Snakes and Ladders stem from “trading games” that praised French colonialism and “sanitized its brutality while also relying on crudely racist imagery.” It also asserts that such games have underlying themes that “exalt (and incentivize) cycles of exploration, expansion, exploitation, and extermination.”

Playing Oppression also suggests that chess enforces social structures and class stratification. According to Chapter Two of the book, “The game supports a strategic, human-focused way of thinking and at its core represents a two-sided, antagonistic view of conflict, where the winner takes all.”  

Another featured book is A Thousand Steps to Parliament, which outlines “the complicated, contradictory paths to representation that women in Mongolia must walk.”

According to the description, the novel underscores “an urgent need to grapple with the encroaching effects of neoliberalism in our global political systems.” Political elections in neoliberal nations are said to require “an accumulation of wealth and power beyond the reach of most women candidates.”

In Responding to the Climate Threat, the authors seek to communicate the issue of global warming to the public in a way that combats “misinformation and denial”

In particular, “Essay 7 is devoted to how “The Trump Administration Cooks the Climate Change Numbers Once Again.” 

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Pomegranate tells the story of a “queer Black woman” and “the devastating effects of incarceration.” 

In an interview on her work, author Helen Elaine Lee commented that, “Collective action and solidarity have been critical to struggles for racial, economic, gender, and sexual justice, and intersectional belonging that honors our multiple experiences and identities is also necessary for surviving and thriving.”

Campus Reform reached out to all relevant parties for comment. This article will be updated accordingly. 

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