Star Trek and Historical Memory

image of outer space

by Aely Aronoff ’21

Aely Aronoff ’21, Harvey Mudd College studentAely Aronoff ’21 is a Harvey Mudd College sophomore whose paper was submitted for Professor David Seitz’s course Star Trek and Social Theory. Aronoff was awarded the First-year Writing Prize in spring 2018 by the Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Arts.

Among the most popular shows in American history, Star Trek and its many iterations have left an indelible mark on modern American culture, largely because of the show’s remarkable ability to convey culturally important messages.

For my research paper in HSA 10 (the first-year seminar at Harvey Mudd), I explored the ways in which Star Trek gives Americans something every culture needs: an understanding of the historical tragedies that can affect people for generations.

Focusing specifically on the Holocaust, I considered how an understanding of historical trauma is successfully passed on to an audience, both by Star Trek and by various historical figures. Analyzing characters in Star Trek, I took an interest in individuals who assume responsibility for understanding past tragedies and communicating that understanding to others—a task that takes an immense toll on those who attempt it.

What fascinated me the most while writing this essay was how I could use the narratives of characters in Star Trek to better understand the stories of real-life Holocaust survivors. I concluded my essay by suggesting that modern America should find people who are best able to understand the traumas of the past and give those people a platform to teach us all. Only then will we be equipped to prevent the tragedies of the future.

Read the full text of Aronoff’s paper “Star Trek and Historical Memory.”