Prof. Dr. Randi Gunzenhäuser (Technische Universität Dortmund): "'Playing in the Dark': Whiteness in Videogames"

Wednesday, 17.07.2019, 4:15-5:45 p.m., LU19/00.11

In 1992 Toni Morrison published Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. In these essays, she reads famous literary texts by white American writers from the 19th and the 20th centuries against the grain, against themselves: she shows how they initiated and kept constructing white identity as the only true American identity by othering blacks. The African American writer describes the relationship between white center and black periphery as a productive cooperation between literary texts on the one hand and their readers as well as literary critics on the other: "To enforce its invisibility through silence is to allow the black body a shadowless participation in the dominant cultural body" (10).

I have been reading about the lack of relevant non-white characters in computer games for many, many years now. And I keep wondering: Do computer games continue the long-standing literary tradition of building white identities with the help of non-white ones? In my talk I try to answer this question by way of popular examples of computer games, discussing key developments that characterize the genre's relatively short history.

Randi Gunzenhaeuser is professor of American studies and media studies at TU Dortmund University. She studied American literary and cultural studies as well as theater at Pomona College, California, and the University of Munich where she completed her Ph.D. In addition to numerous articles on American literature, digital culture, and theories of power, she published Horror at Home: Genre, Gender und das Gothic Sublime and a book on machine people, Automaten – Roboter – Cyborgs: Körperkonzepte im Wandel.