Star Trek and the Anthropological Machine: Eliding Difference to Stay Human
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Ethical considerations have successfully transitioned from considering humans exclusively, to specific animal species, to non-human life on the planet as a whole, yet they remain inescapably earth-bound and geocentric, often conflating ‘life’ and ‘nature’ into a unitary consideration. Contradictions between the sub-, and superlunary worlds abound, but space can be a valuable tool through which to explore the place of the human. Unable to travel to the stars, this dissertation explores the imagined worlds of science fiction, looking to the work of Giorgio Agamben’s Anthropological Machine as it pertains to the representation of aliens in Star Trek. It finds that Star Trek works to keep humans human by identifying common traits in others and subsuming them under a banner of humanity. When this fails, Star Trek works to reject the other entirely by casting them as death. Further, despite the role that an exploration of technology can play in redefining the human’s place, Star Trek rejects its contribution in favour of line-in-the-sand distinctions. The result, however, means that the definition of the human is constantly shifting and morphing. Ultimately, this perpetual reimagining of the human in the face of new externalities means that otherness remains at the forefront of the show’s narrative. The work of the anthropological machine, once exposed, makes it clear that the bounded human individual Star Trek seeks to preserve does not really exist, but rather shows that the human in Star Trek is entirely created by its relationships with others around it.
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