Interstellar Hospitality: Missions of Star House Enterprise

in Art and Visibility in Migratory Culture


This article investigates the concepts of cosmopolitanism and hospitality in the TV series Star Trek Enterprise: The Fifth Generation. In the Enlightened political philosophy of the West, hospitality has been defined as a “universal” law on which “cosmopolitanism” is based (Kant). The aim of this article is to question the ideas of “universality” and “cosmopolitanism” by studying them in a sci-fi space narrative and bringing them back to the astronomical context they are derived from. In the first episode of The Fifth Generation, Broken Bow, the encounter of host and guest at first sight takes the shape of a stereotypical cultural clash between a Western actor who is a priori conceived as “subject,” i.e. the one mastering the visual and linguistic protocol of the encounter on the one hand, and on the other hand, the wild and speechless other, or “alien.” The complex and paradoxical structure of hospitality, as described in great detail by Jacques Derrida, however, remains not at all naive or cursory in Broken Bow. Through detailed analyses of two scenes, this article demonstrates the self-reflexive attitude of the television show. One case focuses on camera work and the rhetoric of the visual in film-making, the other on the diegetic technical device of the “universal translator.” In the end, the television, as a media technology of space travelling, turns out to function itself as a universal translator: a medium to produce the “cosmopolitical” as a possibility and an impossibility at the same time.