In Chapter 4 and 5 of her work, Teaching towards the 24th Century: Star Trek as Social Curriculum, Karen Anijar conducts a post-colonial deconstruction of the semiotics, cultural and linguistic hegemony, racism and xenophobia that underlie what on the surface of the Star Trek series seem to be benign plot motifs, themes, and inclusive characters. Trekkers, virtually cult-like fan followers, are often heard praising the series as being one that was inclusive and had gender and race representation that was ahead of its time. Anijar’s analysis debunks this notion alluding to the fact that not only was it tokenism in representation but that it insidiously reinforced dominant ideologies and stereotypes. Anijar (2000) unequivocally states that In Star Trek, species becomes a signifier for race and that while disclaiming the scientific or social validity of race, Star Trek and Trekkers reify the construct and the terminology, by transferring the term race into the term species—species who are either able to evolve or not able to evolve (indeed, on occasion devolving) to become more like US (Anijar, 2000, p.155). Anijar (2000) further shows that the series reinforces the notion of the “other” and stigmatizes minorities and non-citizens through the deployment of the metaphoric use of the term alien and that the connection between the extraterrestrial (as alien) and non-citizen (as alien), has been deployed as a plot device on numerous occasions (Anijar, 2000, p. 164).
Anijar’s work is an insightful analysis of the way in which popular culture can at times be subtly deployed to continue to render subaltern those whom the dominant culture and ideology wish to characterize in ways that reinforce their own beliefs, values, and constructs of superiority. Anijar’s work can serve as a useful template for bringing a post-colonial lens to popular culture in the social science and language classroom, however in deploying the template in a high school environment much work will have to be done with students to first set up contexts and common understandings of terms and social constructs for them to effectively be able to make meaning through deploying the framework. Anijar’s framework would be much better deployed in an undergraduate social science classroom where there is a more sophisticated awareness in terms of the recognition of constructs and the ideologies that are referred to in her work. Finally, though Anijar’s work was published in 2000 one cannot fail but to notice the resonance between what she describes and lays bare with the current political dialogue and ideology being promoted in many quarters of the United States during the current Presidential campaign.
Anijar, K. (2000). Teaching towards the 24th Century: Star Trek as Social Curriculum.(pp. 142-192). New York: Falmer Press.
Daraius M. Bharucha is a history educator and Department Head of History at Bill Crothers Secondary School. Daraius is also a student at UOIT in the M.Ed. in Digital Technology Program.