Visions of Possibilities: (De)Constructing Imperial Narratives in Star Trek: Voyager

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Virginia Tech


In this dissertation, I argue that contemporary cultural narratives are infused with ongoing ideologies of Euro-American imperialism that prioritizes Western bodies and ways of engaging with living and nonliving beings. This restriction severely hinders possible responses to the present environmental crisis of the era often called the 'Anthropocene' through constant creation and recreation of imperial power relations and the presumed superiority of Western approaches to living. Taking inspiration from postcolonial theorist Edward Said and theories of cultural studies and empire, I use interdisciplinary methods of narrative analysis to examine threads of imperial ideologies that are (re)told and glorified in popular American science fiction television series Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001). Voyager follows the Star Trek tradition of exploring the far reaches of space to advance human knowledge, and in doing so writes Western imperial practices of difference into an idealized future. In chapters 2 through 5, I explore how the series highlights American exceptionalism, Manifest Destiny, a belief in endless linear progress, and the creation of a safe 'home' space amidst the 'wild' spaces of the Delta Quadrant. Each of these narrative features, as presented, rely on Western difference and superiority that were fundamental to past and present Euro-American imperial encounters and endeavors. Through the recreation of these ideologies of empire, Voyager normalizes, legitimizes, and universalizes imperial approaches to engagement with other lifeforms. In order to move away from this intertwined thread of past/present/future imperialism, in my final chapter I propose alternatives for ecofeminist-inspired narrative approaches that offer possibilities for non-imperial futures. As my analysis will demonstrate, Voyager is unable to provide new worlds free of imperial ideas, but the possibility exists through the loss of their entire world, and their need to constantly make and remake their world(s). World making provides opportunity for endless possibilities, and science fiction television has the potential to aid in bringing non-imperial worlds to life. These stories push beyond individual and anthropocentric attitudes toward life on earth, and although such stories will not likely be the immediate cause of change in this era of precarity, stories can prime us for thinking in non-imperial ways.



Feminist Narrative Studies, Ecocriticism, Cultural Studies, Postcolonial Studies, Imperial Narratives, Imperial Ideologies, Science Fiction, Star Trek: Voyager, Anthropocene Criticism