Is Trek Still Too Eurocentric?

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Nob Akimoto, Oct 21, 2013.

  1. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    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?
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    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.
     
  3. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  4. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    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.
     
  5. iguana_tonante

    iguana_tonante Admiral Admiral

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    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. :lol:
     
  6. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    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.
     
  7. Masiral

    Masiral Captain Captain

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    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.
     
  8. iguana_tonante

    iguana_tonante Admiral Admiral

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    Yep. And I think this is the most damning part. It smacks of implicit cultural superiority.
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    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).
     
  10. iguana_tonante

    iguana_tonante Admiral Admiral

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    Well, pretty convenient, isn't it.
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    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.
     
  12. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    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.
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^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.
     
  14. iguana_tonante

    iguana_tonante Admiral Admiral

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    I don't feel the just for a fictional justification to whitewash a very real issue.
     
  15. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    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.
     
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    My intent is anything but "whitewashing." I've done all I could to add more diversity to the Trek universe in my fiction. But we're stuck with the version of reality that's been presented on the show. I'm just trying to figure out how such an unrealistically Eurocentric future could have come to pass -- because I emphatically reject the idea that it's some kind of natural default position.
     
  17. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    Well, perhaps France was wiped out and resettled by British people, explaining why the only Frenchman in Star Trek speaks in an english accent, loves earl grey tea, and is a Shakespeare afficianado.
     
  18. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    More seriously, I understand that there's a lot of limiting factors that keep people from introducing too much non-Anglo-American culture into the TV series, for example. Audience knowledge would explain why Gorkon and Chang so loved Shakespeare but not Hagakure. We also know that authors and writers back in the day had a lot less access to things like wikipedia that could introduce them to things at the touch of a button.

    I do think it's something that's harder to excuse today, though, and TrekLit as a general tendency has done a pretty good job of increasing the diversity. A great example would be a ship named Sugihara for Chiune Sugihara. Yet there's still gaps and spaces, like ship names in general. Do we really need ships named after conquistadors or dictatorial regime shipnames?
     
  19. iguana_tonante

    iguana_tonante Admiral Admiral

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    I didn't mean to imply you support the notion: your work speaks for you. But I do feel that rationalizing it (in the internal narrative of the series) lessens the real-life issue that lies at the bottom of it (i.e. the implicit position taken by the show that western culture is somehow inherently "better" or "more evolved" that any other). I understand you might need the rationalization as a writer and an author, but as a mere spectator, I don't feel the same constraints.
     
  20. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    To be fair, with regards to 24th Century Mogadishu...

    ... realistically-speaking, wouldn't 24th Century Moghadishu have its own secondary school system, likely with their own sports teams? Yeah, it may seem a bit "Americanized" if they're as into their secondary school sports teams as they seemed in Losing the Peace, but that could be seen as natural cultural syncretism rather than an assertion of Euro-American cultural dominance.

    One way of advancing the idea of cultural syncretism, of course, might be to depict some manner in which everyday 24th Century American or 24th Century European culture has been noticeably influenced by African and Asian cultures. Something on parr with depicting a seemingly Americanized enthusiasm for secondary school sports.
     

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