A Different Trek


A Different Trek

Radical Geographies of Deep Space Nine

David K. Seitz 

Cultural Geographies + Rewriting the Earth Series

346 pages
25 photographs, 2 tables, index


July 2023


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July 2023


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About the Book

A different kind of Star Trek television series debuted in 1993. Deep Space Nine was set not on a starship but a space station near a postcolonial planet still reeling from a genocidal occupation. The crew was led by a reluctant Black American commander and an extraterrestrial first officer who had until recently been an anticolonial revolutionary. DS9 extended Star Trek’s tradition of critical social commentary but did so by transgressing many of Star Trek’s previous taboos, including religion, money, eugenics, and interpersonal conflict. DS9 imagined a twenty-fourth century that was less a glitzy utopia than a critical mirror of contemporary U.S. racism, capitalism, imperialism, and heteropatriarchy.

Thirty years after its premiere, DS9 is beloved by critics and fans but remains marginalized in scholarly studies of science fiction. Drawing on cultural geography, Black studies, and feminist and queer studies, A Different “Trek” is the first scholarly monograph dedicated to a critical interpretation of DS9’s allegorical world-building. If DS9 has been vindicated aesthetically, this book argues that its prophetic, place-based critiques of 1990s U.S. politics, which deepened the foundations of many of our current crises, have been vindicated politically, to a degree most scholars and even many fans have yet to fully appreciate.

Author Bio

David K. Seitz is an associate professor of cultural geography at Harvey Mudd College. He is the author of A House of Prayer for All People: Contesting Citizenship in a Queer Church. For more information about the author, visit davidkseitz.com.


"Seitz's study sets out . . . to complicate readings of Trek as a whole, and to illuminate the ways in which the series anticipates our current political moment. A Different Trek is wildly successful in this regard, opening avenues of inquiry without resorting to simple antagonism between DS9 and Trek writ large, or indulging in a straightforward valorization of its primary object of study."—Brian Kenna, Science Fiction Film and Television

"Seitz brings Star Trek firmly into conversation with critical social theory and geography at a scope and scale not yet attempted. I hope this is just the beginning."—Mark Alan Rhodes II, cultural geographies

"Seitz's analysis embodies the best of what science fiction studies can be: a critical commentary on past and future presents and an inspiration for alternative possibilities of better futures. . . . The book holds significance for academics and beyond the ivory tower, especially for those with an interest in the critical humanities and social sciences and in fostering opportunities for reflective thinking."—Isabella Hermann, International Affairs

"I had so many sticky notes in this book after reading it, marking new (to me) takes on various episodes and characters and references to other scholarly and fan works that I wanted to check out. The sources Seitz considered for this work are really interesting and varied, drawing from cultural studies, political theory, Star Trek reference books, queer theory and critical race theory. . . . At the end of the read, I was inspired to rewatch DS9 and re-energized for activism. What more can you ask for?"—Jarrah Hodge, Women at Warp

"Drawing comparisons between our current cultural milieu and the universe as depicted in DS9, Seitz presents us with a much more nuanced view of the typical utopian-oriented views of science fiction. . . . In A Different Trek author Seitz gives us a lot to think about as we contemplate our present and our possible futures."—Kevin Folkman, Association for Mormon Letters

“Like the Orbs of the Prophets, David Seitz’s A Different ‘Trek’ illuminates the deeper teachings of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. An incisive analysis of DS9, Seitz gives us a compelling examination of how the stories of the series, while imperfect, go where no Star Trek has gone before, challenging the consequences of militarism, colonialism, and capitalism that are too often overlooked in the liberal utopianism of the franchise. Clear-eyed and thoughtful, A Different ‘Trek’ is the close read of Deep Space Nine that we have been waiting for, built on respect and recognition of the Black intellectual and radical work foundational to both the field of cultural studies and the art of generations of Black Star Trek actors.”—Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, author of The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred

“A remarkable guide to a remarkable series. Equally versed in contemporary debates in Black studies and critical theory and in Star Trek lore—and equally skilled in explaining both to outsiders—not only does David Seitz make the case for the relevance of Deep Space Nine for Leftist thought. His critical yet generous stance also provides a model for future investigations into the ways that commercial entertainment can transcend its origins and speak creatively to the political dilemmas of its age.”—Adam Kotsko, author of Neoliberalism’s Demons: On the Political Theology of Late Capital

Deep Space Nine extended the critical promise of Star Trek into our homes in an unprecedented way. Students of recent history, twentieth-century geographies, contemporary militarism, queer studies, and Afrofuturism should read A Different ‘Trek’. David Seitz reopens this chapter in popular culture to remind us that staying in place—especially on a planet like ours, with its bloodstained maps and shifting tides of power—affords us every possibility to confront legacies of injustice and imagine radical futures.”—andré m. carrington, author of Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science Fiction

“David Seitz displays a vast knowledge of Star Trek lore, storylines, and fandom and masterfully deploys a constellation of lenses—queer and critical race theory, Marxism, feminism, and psychoanalysis—to turn a penetrating but generous gaze on the Trek universe. He brilliantly explores the anticolonial and inter-imperialist struggles central to Deep Space Nine as an unstable allegory of neoliberal racial capitalism from the United States to Palestine.”—Tim McCaskell, author of Queer Progress: From Homophobia to Homonationalism

“This is a rich and conceptually diverse account of political possibility in the series Deep Space Nine. Through his characterization of racial capitalism at the heart of the Star Trek universe, David Seitz powerfully draws out the geopolitical tensions between the possibilities of 1990s U.S. liberal humanism and its constitutive violences. I now want to go back to the beginning of the series to re-view it in light of the insights and observations offered in the book.”—Jo Sharp, professor of geography at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, and author of Geographies of Postcolonialism

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Preface: Beyond Uhura, “Beyond Vietnam”
Dramatis Personae
Introduction: Reading Racial Capitalism from DS9
1. The Radical Sisko
2. Cardassian Settler Colonialism and the Bajoran Struggle for Decolonization
3. Jem’Hadar Marronage and the Dominion “Order of Things”
4. Defetishizing the Ferengi
5. O’Brien Family Values
6. Empire’s Queer Inheritances
Conclusion: “This Darker Thing”

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