Lessons from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine with David SeitzNovember 14, 2023
In his new book, A Different Trek: Radical Geographies of Deep Space Nine, Harvey Mudd College Associate Professor of Cultural Geography David Seitz argues that the acclaimed 1990s Star Trek spinoff’s prophetic, place-based critiques of U.S. politics have been vindicated politically, to a degree most scholars and even many fans have yet to fully appreciate.
With its themes of economics, race, gender and international politics, Seitz sees the series as an invitation to imagine different worlds.
“Because it is set on a space station, DS9 is about not being able to fly away from the consequences at warp speed,” Seitz says. “I think that challenges us to not only figure out our current ecological problems but to reckon with the reality of how uneven the experience of these problems are across and within different regions and societies.”
“The show’s episodic nature allows for it to offer all these different object lessons on all these different topics in all these different directions,” Seitz says. “So, what I wanted to do, is hold a couple of different themes together and connect the dots.”
Seitz’s research and teaching at Harvey Mudd focuses on gentrification, immigration, queer community formation, popular culture and socialist strategy.
After having success with using popular science fiction as a teaching tool, Seitz realized there was more he could do with the Star Trek franchise. “We’ll read theories on race, class, gender, sexuality, watch an episode of Star Trek and then discuss what it would mean to hold this in tension with whatever theory we just read about or other relevant theories,” he says.
“The students will build on what I teach in the class to ask questions about disability or different kinds of sexual identity. So, my challenge to them is always, you can do that, but can you do it in a way that’s intersectional? We’re often told to think about identity and class as completely unrelated, but of course they intersect so powerfully in our world and in our lives.”
A Different Trek: Radical Geographies of Deep Space Nine is published by University of Nebraska Press.