Board(er) Games: Space, Culture, and Empire in <em>Jumanji</em> and Its Intertexts

  • Samira Nadkarni Assistant Professor, St. Andrew's College (contracted)
  • Aishwarya Subramanian
Keywords: borders, race, empire, transmedia, transfiction, post/colonialism, Jumanji, The Gauntlet


Two recent transmedia narratives—Karuna Riazi’s 2017 middle-grade novel The Gauntlet and the 2017 film Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle—have attempted to reclaim the 1995 film Jumanji’s colonial narrative (adapted from Chris Van Allsburg’s 1981 picture book). Both present forms of the “portal fantasy,” in which a protagonist supernaturally breaches the borders of another world. The Gauntlet transports its Muslim Bangladeshi American protagonist to a fantastical board game, whereas Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle reconfigures the genre as multimedia immersive gameplay in a fictional “other” realm. Although these reworkings seemingly destabilize white supremacy by centring multi-ethnic American identities, their negotiations with the board game, itself a product of imperial history and a manifestation of the “gamification” of empire (wherein progress is measured by control of the board) complicate this. The creation of an American neo-colonial nationalism through a system of orientalizing these fantastic spaces (the jungle within the 2017 film and Riazi’s clockwork Islamic city) affirms the need for their control or eventual destruction by the protagonists. This effectively creates cultural borders that extend into these fictional spaces, playing out historical systems of empire in a bid to gain access to neo-empire.

Author Biographies

Samira Nadkarni, Assistant Professor, St. Andrew's College (contracted)

Samira Nadkarni’s publications trace her interest in postmodern poetry, human rights, media studies, fan studies, digital texts, and pedagogy. In addition to teaching English Literature, she works as a maritime journalist specializing in seafarer rights. She is the co-editor of War in the Whedonverses (forthcoming with McFarland), and her publications in 2020 include articles on the limits of racebending in Hamilton and performativity in Geoffrey Hill’s long poem Speech! Speech!

Aishwarya Subramanian

Dr. Aishwarya Subramanian is an Assistant Professor of English at O. P. Jindal Global University in Sonipat, India. Her research interests include children’s literature, fantasy, spatiality, and post-imperial Britain. She was co-editor of Curating National Histories, a 2019 special issue of International Research in Children’s Literature. Her recent work on children’s literature appears in Space and Culture (2019) and The Lion and The Unicorn (forthcoming).

How to Cite
Nadkarni, S., & Subramanian, A. (2020). Board(er) Games: Space, Culture, and Empire in <em>Jumanji</em&gt; and Its Intertexts. Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures, 12(2), 40-61. Retrieved from