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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Misc. Star Trek > Trek Literature

Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

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Old October 21 2013, 07:54 PM   #1
Nob Akimoto
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Is Trek Still Too Eurocentric?

One of the things that's always kinda bugged me about Trek is just how predominant european culture and characters tend to be. TrekLit's tried to correct for some of this to a certain degree, though it only seems to go so far.

Human characters remain almost predominantly Euro-American. The most overtly non-European major character (Jasminder Choudhury) was killed off in Cold Equations and replaced by a european descent character. The only series where we see a mostly non-Eurocentric human cast was Vanguard.

You'd be forgiven for believing that nothing outside of say English literature appears to survive past the 22nd century of humanity. I know monoculture is a problem for Trek species in general, but it seems kind of egregiously so for humanity. I mean everyone seems to know about Shakespeare, but you don't hear as much about Rumi or the Manyoushu. Granted, you might lose some of the contrast with alien cultures if you didn't restrict humans from being American or European bourgeoise, but it still seems a bit too narrow.

Am I being too sensitive?
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Old October 21 2013, 08:05 PM   #2
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Re: Is Trek Still Too Eurocentric?

I think you make a fair point. Trek has always talked a good game about inclusion, but is very much coming from an American/European perspective. It's definitely worth pointing out that there's room for improvement.
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Old October 21 2013, 08:08 PM   #3
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Re: Is Trek Still Too Eurocentric?

I think the books have done a lot to help open Trek past a lot of this kind of stuff, but there it could still be improved.
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Old October 21 2013, 08:17 PM   #4
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Re: Is Trek Still Too Eurocentric?

Christopher wrote: View Post
I think you make a fair point. Trek has always talked a good game about inclusion, but is very much coming from an American/European perspective. It's definitely worth pointing out that there's room for improvement.
I think you've done a great job, ranging from how Picard talks Worf into joining him in The Buried Age to Jasminder Choudhury in Greater Than the Sum.
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Old October 21 2013, 09:29 PM   #5
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Re: Is Trek Still Too Eurocentric?

If by "Euro-centric" you actually mean "(American+British)-centric", sure.

If you mean continental Europe, not so much (Picard was the only continental European among the main characters, and he was played by a British actor. Checkov is another one, but he was basically a glorified extra).

On the other hand, people from Africa, Asia, South America, and Oceania are even less represented, so I guess we can't really complain.
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Old October 21 2013, 09:45 PM   #6
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Re: Is Trek Still Too Eurocentric?

Well even the "African" folks are evidently from Americanized parts of Africa. Like Geordi's hometown of Mogadishu is depicted in I think Losing the Peace as having become a mini-San Francisco, complete with Americanized High School athletics between the Zefram Cochrane High School whatevers and something else.
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Old October 21 2013, 09:56 PM   #7
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Re: Is Trek Still Too Eurocentric?

Nob Akimoto wrote: View Post
I mean everyone seems to know about Shakespeare, but you don't hear as much about Rumi or the Manyoushu.
The issue here might be more audience-based - the TV shows, movies, and novels are originally made for an English-speaking audience. Naturally, references would be made to literature that Americans/Brits are familiar with.
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Old October 21 2013, 10:12 PM   #8
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Re: Is Trek Still Too Eurocentric?

Nob Akimoto wrote: View Post
Well even the "African" folks are evidently from Americanized parts of Africa. Like Geordi's hometown of Mogadishu is depicted in I think Losing the Peace as having become a mini-San Francisco, complete with Americanized High School athletics between the Zefram Cochrane High School whatevers and something else.
Yep. And I think this is the most damning part. It smacks of implicit cultural superiority.
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Old October 21 2013, 10:18 PM   #9
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Re: Is Trek Still Too Eurocentric?

Or it could just be a historical accident. In our world, the West has been culturally dominant for generations, but that seems to be starting to fade now. In the Trek world, however, things may be different. Much of the non-Western world was ruled by Khan and the Augments in the '90s, and the defeat of the Augments may have set back those countries in ways that didn't happen in our history. Then WWIII happened, and from what we can discern by comparing "Encounter at Farpoint" and First Contact, the "post-atomic horror" was far worse in the East, so evidently they took the brunt of the damage in the war. But America retained enough of an infrastructure to develop warp drive and bring contact with the Vulcans, and maybe the West thus became the main point of contact with Vulcan, reinforcing its cultural and political primacy. Not because it's innately superior, but just because of the vagaries of history happening to play out in its favor (i.e. the same reason it happens to have been culturally dominant in recent generations).
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Old October 21 2013, 10:26 PM   #10
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Re: Is Trek Still Too Eurocentric?

Well, pretty convenient, isn't it.
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Old October 21 2013, 10:41 PM   #11
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Re: Is Trek Still Too Eurocentric?

Not saying it's right, just saying that maybe it can be justified without having to resort to the implication that one culture is superior to another.
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Old October 21 2013, 10:42 PM   #12
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Re: Is Trek Still Too Eurocentric?

I'm not entirely sure if the Post Atomic Horror is meant to be worse in the East than the West. The novelization of First Contact tells us most of the US electronics infrastructure is gone after World War III. Pharmaceuticals run out, the government has no control over interstate commerce, and diseases that had been "cured" like mental illness return in rampant numbers. Cochrane's potential buyers are evidently Indonesia's space agency not the US government, for example. It took Lily Sloane a huge amount of time to get enough materials to build a decent cockpit for Phoenix, etc. etc.
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Old October 21 2013, 10:47 PM   #13
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Re: Is Trek Still Too Eurocentric?

^Novelizations aren't authoritative. Even other novels tend to disregard them. What's onscreen is the only unambiguous "fact" we have, and it's vague enough to allow for more than one interpretation.
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Old October 21 2013, 10:49 PM   #14
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Re: Is Trek Still Too Eurocentric?

Christopher wrote: View Post
Not saying it's right, just saying that maybe it can be justified without having to resort to the implication that one culture is superior to another.
I don't feel the just for a fictional justification to whitewash a very real issue.
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Old October 21 2013, 10:53 PM   #15
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Re: Is Trek Still Too Eurocentric?

Well sure, but I do feel like the situation in Bozeman Montana was pretty spectacularly bad for something that would be an American government backed project. On-screen at least, we also see the US being in pretty dire straits circa 2024 in "Past Tense" with the Bell Riots and Sanctuary Districts. We also know some fellow named "Colonel Green" was going around purging and murdering the unclean circa the 2050s, presumably the guy was American.

Do we really know if the Farpoint courthouse is actually non-western? For all we know it could have taken place in a part of the US with a high asian-american population.
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