What can Star Trek teach us about sociology?

A University of Victoria course will use the Star Trek series, and its fan base, to explore sociology concepts such as subcultures and social movements.

No need to know a Klingon from a Romulan to take course based on science fiction franchise

PhD candidate Edwin Hodge (pictured, with 'tribble') will teach a University of Victoria course starting in September on the sociology of Star Trek. (Rebecca Dhillon)

Edwin Hodge says you don't have to know a Klingon from a Romulan to sign up for his upcoming course on the sociology of Star Trek at the University of Victoria.

The catalog listing for the course, SOCI 390, currently bears the mundane moniker of "Selected Problems in Sociology", but Hodge, a PhD candidate, hit upon the idea of using Star Trek as a vehicle to teach its key concepts to undergrads.

"I realized that pop culture was a really good vehicle for that," Hodge told All Points West host Robyn Burns.

The sociological concepts to be covered in the course include subcultures and countercultures, social movements, social action and activism, the relationship between media and its consumers and the ownership of the collected Star Trek works.

The course will also examine the emergence of fandom as a specific subculture, and how philosophies expressed in the Star Trek universe have been adopted as a utopian model.

Hodge said he's particularly interested in the way Star Trek handled the sociological concept of The Other, who in the film and TV series are completely alien beings. 

Edwin Hodge's Star Trek sociology course will use the show and its influence as a vehicle to explore sociological concepts including subcultures, countercultures and social movements. (Paramount Television/Associated Press)

"Star Trek, rather than go the simple route of, well, pick a fight with them and whoever wins, our culture was clearly dominant, instead opted to go the more diplomatic route," Hodge said.

The course will also examine how the original series challenged existing social norms of its time. For example, it included one of the first interracial kisses on U.S.TV and a multinational, multiracial crew on the U.S.S. Enterprise, including an African-American woman on the command bridge.

Hodge said the course is open to any registered full or part time student, and it's not necessary to be a hard-core Trekkie. 

"You just have to be willing to explore sociology in a novel kind of way," he said.