Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)


American Studies


Francesca Sawaya

Committee Member

Charles McGovern

Committee Member

Grey Gundaker


In 2019, Game of Thrones aired its final episode, The Iron Throne. This episode enjoyed enormous viewership, and culminated in the death of Daenerys Targaryen, a fan favorite, whose storyline saw her conquer diverse cultures and declare rulership over the continents of Essos and Westeros. Her character is unique for being one of the most famous female protagonists in the fantasy genre, as well as a builder of empires. As evidenced by the hundreds of children named both ‘Khaleesi’ and ‘Daenerys’ after her, she was a hero to many. However, much of her storyline was occupied with the subjugation of black and brown people- sometimes in the name of liberation, but always with the goal of validating Daenerys’s claim to rulership. This thesis aims to uncover the developments in the fantasy genre that led to the depiction of Daenerys Targaryen as a white conqueror of non-white subjects, and the ways that Game of Thrones valorized her attempts at leadership. Primarily using the work of Helen Young and Jamie Williamson, I will demonstrate the longstanding tradition of white imperialism established in the fantasy genre, and incorporate Anne McClintock’s framework of race and gender from her seminal work Imperial Leather to examine how Daenerys both subverts and upholds the expectations of imperialism as a matriarchal conqueror in Game of Thrones.



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