“Star Trek” examines social justice

Madilyn Sturges Multimedia Contributor

Walking into Joseph Orosco’s office, the associate professor of philosophy is not the first person you see. A cardboard cutout of Captain Kirk welcomes you from the corner, marking the first sight of Orosco’s vast “Star Trek” memorabilia.

Orosco is using his interest for “Star Trek” and social justice for The Annares Project, which examines episodes of “Star Trek” to show serious social issues today. This year’s event coincides with the 50th anniversary of the original “Star Trek” series.

The event will feature discussions about how episodes from “Star Trek” can parallel to current social issues in the world and a panel focusing on “Star Trek” and Indigenous people. The Anarres Project is putting on events from Oct. 4 to Nov. 10.

The Anarres Project is co-created by Orosco and Tony Vogt, a philosophy instructor. They created the project based on their love for science fiction and how it corresponds to the world now.

“The Anarres Project is dedicated to trying to provide a forum on campus and in the community here for thinking about social, cultural, and political, and economical change with a social justice aspect to it,” Orosco said.

Orosco hopes to use the Anarres Project to highlight the different ways in which “Star Trek” has engaged with the many social and political issues in the world.

On Oct. 4, Orosco played the “Star Trek” episode “Far Beyond the Stars” and moderated a discussion about how it parallels to Black Lives Matter.

The episode involved police brutality and racism in the 1950s. The group discussion brought up the fact that those issues were still relevant in the 50s, during the production of the episode in the 1990s and today.

Robyn Morris, a graduate student in the School of History, Philosophy, and Religion, came to the discussion already a fan of “Star Trek” and was interested to know what people thought of how the show relates to societal problems.

“If you watch ‘Star Trek’ very closely, there’s tons of episodes like this,” Morris said.

Morris is not the only one seeing the similarities between real world problems and the themes presented throughout “Star Trek”.

“The idea of ‘Star Trek’ is of a future in which we can be,” Orosco said. “That all the problems that are plaguing us today in the world—poverty, war, inequality—that these things can be solved in some sense and that we can move on as human beings to do other things.”

For Morris, “Star Trek” is a perfect example of how people should tackle important issues, such as social justice.

“I think it’s very poignant,” Morris points out. “Often times, I find myself saying ‘oh God, I just wish we were in Star Trek land now so that we could get past these things’ but again the process of moving past some of these issues is as important as actually getting through them.”

Orosco has always been a fan of “Star Trek” and with the 50th anniversary this year, it inspired him to create something here at Oregon State University.

“What has always drawn me to it is the stories about how a future might be different, that we can work to build a world in which the social problems that we have today, we can struggle through them and make a different kind of world,” Orosco said.

Orosco and Vogt have worked together on the Anarres Project for the past three years, and have used popular culture to create discussions.

“Both of us are enthusiastic about the fiction universe of Le Guin, and inspired by science fiction in general,” Vogt said. “As a way of thinking about social problems, here and now. But also ways to possibly move toward a future that resolves social problems.”

Both Orosco and Vogt are interested in working with a wide range of people to examine how they made change in the world.

“We’re interested in ways that scholars, activists, people out in the world, are thinking about different ways, or doing different things differently now,” Vogt said. “Not waiting for the perfect moment. Not waiting for the perfect world to come about.”


For more information, contact Professor Joseph Orosco or go online to anarresproject.org.


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