“Post-Industrial Barbarians”: Star Trek, the Other, and the Apocalypse

Mark Alan Rhodes, Cal Quayle, Nev Indish


Following recent work in Literary Geographies on critical worldbuilding, a related thread throughout geography examining narratives of apocalypse, and the recent resurgence of Star Trek, this paper employs the concept of first contact to explore various forms of apocalyptic avoidance. In the context of the Anthropocene, we argue that science fiction, such as Star Trek, illuminates processes of othering and the intersectional nature of ecological, social, and economic violence. Referring to the first contact between alien species, in Star Trek the first ‘first contact’ - depicted in film, Star Trek: First Contact (1996) set in a post-apocalyptic United States - initiates a global human unity and eventually a universe (at least working towards) eliminating sexism, racism, and capitalism and protecting the environment. This paper expands on the idea of a geographies of Star Trek to examine how the discourse of Star Trek, with its soon to be twelve series and thirteen films, engages with an alternative future of apocalyptic avoidance through the lens of first contact. Just as the Anthropocene and our current climate crises are rooted in ecological disaster, these many apocalyptic realities of our world also have social and economic underpinnings. Similarly, as processes of othering often reveal the social violence of colonialism, microaggressions, and other forms of hate, the economic and ecologic Other are just as worthy of consideration. Through Star Trek, we illustrate discources of de-othering ecological, social, economic violence through a metaphorical first contact with the environmental, social, and economic crises we currently face. Just as Star Trek itself classifies the neoliberal corporate and political elites of the twenty-first century as “post-industrial barbarians,” through a utopian frame, we too delve into the barbarity of empathetic absence in a not yet post-apocalyptic world. 


Star Trek; Science Fiction; Utopia; Apocalypse; Othering; Anthropocene

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