Star Trek: Four Fields in Space

My vote for the most “anthropological” pop culture phenomenon goes to Star Trek. They collect biological, historical, political and cultural data on each society. And they even have a running debate between scientific empiricism (Spock) and humanistic interventionism (McCoy). While the “prime directive” prohibits interference with the “primitive” societies they encounter on other planets, they never seem to actually abide by this rule. Especially Kirk, who seems keen to write an interplanetary update to the Sexual Life of Savages.

3 thoughts on “Star Trek: Four Fields in Space

  1. The short-lived TV series ‘Alien Nation’ was always sort of richly textured this way — metaphors of race, cultural difference, gender expectations etc.

  2. Star Trek: TNG was always the more overtly anthropological, especially in reflection of some imagined ideal of what anthropology is.

  3. I see TNG as the post/modern anthropologists. Kirk’s Enterprise, on the other hand, was much more parallel to early anthropology.

    Even more anthropological to me, though, is Voyager, because it totally has the “dumped in the field with no contact with home” experience going on, and thus you can see the characters going through stages of adjustment that ethnographers go through. Also, new race every week–but the balance here has decidedly shifted to humanistic intervention, I think.

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