Native Steampunk Roundup

There’ve been a few interesting posts recently about Native American-inspired Steampunk, particularly issues surrounding costuming, so I thought I’d pass them along!

Beyond Victoriana has a guest post on stereotypes in costuming and incorporating native technology.

And Multiculturalism for Steampunk has about a dozen posts on the topic. Here are my favorites:

Native American Steampunk: An Approach, a good overview on the subject.

Reflection from the Crow-Lady, Miss Kageshi’s response to criticisms of the above-mentioned post.

(There’s a bunch of costuming stuff on the same site, in addition to some recipes.)

And finally, I missed most of Tor.com’s Steampunk Fortnight a while ago, but there were a few posts dealing with imperialism, colonialism, and non-Euro-centric steampunk, including this one which has an overview non-European steampunk possibilities, including Native American characters.

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14 Responses to “Native Steampunk Roundup”

  1. Katie-

    The explanation behind the cornucopia of Native American steampunk posts lately is because November is officially Native American Heritage Month. That’s why I decided to celebrate a bit over at the Steamer’s Trunk.

    Thanks for the feature!

  2. I find these multi-ethnic and GBLT discussions fascinating but also rather uncomfortable. You see I had the enlightening experience of majoring in anthropology in San Francisco during the early 1990s. In other words I was at ground zero of the political correctness movement and I learned its lessons well. Unfortunately, I also learned that I am evil and there is very little I can do about it.

    You see I am a male American of majority English decent and I strongly favor women as sexual partners. I learned through political correctness whatever action or inaction I take regarding issues of gender or ethnicity is… evil. By studying other cultures I was participating in imperialism, and am therefore evil, however if I did not study other cultures I was ethnocentric. I’m evil either way.

    The simple act of noticing a woman was attractive means that I am oppressing a woman with “male gaze” and therefore I am evil. More than that if I’m staring into space, which I do a lot of because I have ADHD, and a woman is in my line of sight it is assumed that I am oppressing her and am evil.

    I found that going out for a beer could make me evil. San Francisco was full of Irish and Scottish pubs and they were quite popular. Inevitably ethnicity would come up with folks boasting of their Celtic connections. I would have to answer that I had none since I was pretty much English. Where upon other drinkers would wrinkle their noses in distaste because I am evil.

    So now we are on the Internet being lefty steampunks at each other in 2010 and topic d’jour is ethnic and gender diversity in steampunk. Bravo I say! These are certainly important topics. But I cannot help but feel a certain déjà vu. If I wear clothes that are Western and English I am participating in racist ethnocentric imperialist aspects of steampunk. I am evil. However if I wear clothes from any other culture it is an act of theft and appropriation and again, I am evil. And of course I can’t help but notice how nice you ladies look in your outfits so I’m evil that way to.

    I don’t like being evil. I think I’m a nice person and I try very hard to part of the solution rather than the problem. So do any of you have any advice on how I can participate in the steampunk movement without being evil?

  3. I’m going to approach the feminist side of this post, given that it’s the only point on which I’m in any way qualified to speak on. I’m sure that there are other people who can address it from a racial, sexual-orientation or body-ableness perspective.

    Maybe the idea is surprising or unusual to you, but I don’t think that you’re ‘evil’ for being a man. No more or no less evil than anybody else, and certainly no more or no less capable of holding either feminist or sexist views.

    Finding a woman attractive does not make you ‘evil’, however, by remarking out loud on a woman’s level of physical attractiveness you are perpetuating a system where women are (and feel) judged solely on their looks and their attractiveness to men, and that’s a problem. I don’t hold you personally accountable for the fact that we live in a society where women are made to feel as though their worth is equated with their appearance. Hell, I’m not even going to get horribly pissed off with you and yell at you if you reinforce that system–if I went around losing my temper with every man that reinforced the patriarchy, I’d run out of breath long before I ever ran out of people to yell at. However, for my personal friends (both male and female), I would much rather hang out with people who understand that we live in a society where women are frequently judged solely on their looks, and who do their best not to contribute to that system.

    That doesn’t mean that my male friends don’t find women attractive, or that they don’t sometimes remark on a woman’s looks, but rather that such remarks are 1) respectful and 2) part of a much broader spectrum of remarking equally on a woman’s intelligence, skills and abilities. If someone has seen a female physicist on the TV (a rarity in itself) then I would much rather have a conversation about how smart she was than how hot she was–a male physicist can expect to be judged on his knowledge and abilities, and his female counterpart should have exactly those same rights. That’s what feminism is about, not punishing anybody or making anyone feel as though their evil.

    As for how you can be a part of the solution: Honestly, the best advice is to listen, to try to understand, and to understand that sometimes you’re going to fuck up. Everybody fucks up. I probably manage to fail at feminism more than plenty of men out there who know more about it than I do. It’s not about that so much as it’s about realising when that happens, holding your hands up and learning–rather than reacting aggressively and acting like a total ass. If anything makes you ‘evil’, then it’s that. Not what colour your skin is, what gender you are, or who you find attractive.

  4. Allegra, you made several good points but you also reinforced my main point with your first two sentences.

    “I’m going to approach the feminist side of this post, given that it’s the only point on which I’m in any way qualified to speak on. I’m sure that there are other people who can address it from a racial, sexual-orientation or body-ableness perspective.”

    You feel qualified to speak on feminism because you are a woman, but are leaving the other issues is to people of color, GLBT or the disabled. There is a kind of bigotry to this that can be just as bad as the kinds of bigotry we all are trying to fight. It groups everyone into into a ridiculously simplistic oppressor/oppressed dichotomy. Then devalues the perspective of anyone who fits into the “oppressor” grouping so much that they assume that they are unqualified to discuss the matter on an internet.

    Allegra,
    You are of a race, have a sexual orientation, and your body has a state of “ableness.” So why do you feel you can’t address these things?

  5. When I started this blog, I in no means was trying to be one of those guilt-tripping pseudo-intellectuals trying to be multicultural in an effort to clear mine and everyone’s conscience. Besides, my blog is about culture- not race. I have no desire whatsoever to talk or guilt about the topic and it has no place in my articles. That’s why I post informative, instructional, or artistic-based content- in hopes of inspiring people through the art and culture of the past into adopting multicultural steampunk, not guilting them into it or offering them some sort of salvation.

    People can talk all they like about how ‘nice’ it would be if there was more multicultural steampunk or how there ‘should’ be with more areas represented. I’m not taking that approach. I take things from the artistic mindset that there’s a lot more awesome out there to draw ideas from that are almost untouched. At a con you could be dressed as a steampunked Turkish coffee vendor or a well-heeled British gentleman and I wouldn’t care as long as you are cordial (or at the very least professional) towards me.

    In addition, most of the time when I’m at steampunk events I’m dressed as an imperialist Prussian officer in a full-blown military uniform. People can play both sides of the fence! It’s more fun, educational, and inclusive that way.

  6. Yes, a part of the reason that I don’t feel qualified to talk about racial or ableness issues (LGBT is another issue, and I’ll deal with that later) is because I’m white and able-bodied, and therefore have no actual experiential knowledge of what it’s like to be discriminated against on the grounds of my skin colour, or my disability. However, you’re wrong to assume that’s the only reason that I didn’t want to address it.

    The other main reason is because I have done far more reading about feminism, and am far more involved in feminism as an activist (because I do know what it’s like to be discriminated against because of my gender–I’m aware that there is a degree of self-interest at work here), therefore I’m confident enough in the depth of my reading to have a discussion about it.

    Another thing to bear in mind is that one of the biggest problems you face in anti-racism (and again, my knowledge of anti-racism is better than my knowledge of ableism and disabled activism) is the fact that people of colour are frequently silenced, erased, and are otherwise spoken for by everybody but themselves, and that’s a real, real problem. People involved in anti-racism (and people of colour generally) have their own voices, and unfortunately we live in a world where those voices are often drowned out.

    All of those things together mean that I’d much rather focus on discussing what I know and ‘where I live’, rather than trying (in my own ham-fisted way) to argue about something when there are people who are actually involved in it that are far better placed to talk about it. Look at it this way: I’d feel pissed off if I was sitting in on a conversation with group of people discussing gender discrimination, including a man who was arguing from a feminist perspective, but every time I tried to speak for myself, he talked over me. Equally, if I was involved in a discussion about physics, then I’d probably let a physicist do the talking instead of shouting them down.

    If I’m in a situation where there isn’t someone better qualified to talk about anti-racism, then I won’t refuse to talk about it. I’m not ‘afraid of offending anyone’ or believe that I’m an ‘oppressor’ (if nothing else then every single anti-racism activist I’ve ever met has never been anything but patient and understanding with me while I’m learning about it). I’m just aware that I am still learning about these issues, I have no experiential knowledge of them, and because of both those things, I’m quite likely to make a hash of explaining them–that may be good for me (because I get to challenge and refine my views) but it probably doesn’t do much to correct the racist views of whoever it is I’m arguing with.

    As far as LGBT issues go–I’m bisexual, but not heavily involved in LGBT activism. I could probably hold a conversation about it, but I’m not quite sure what elements of LGBT in steampunk are bothering you.

  7. “You are of a race, have a sexual orientation, and your body has a state of “ableness.” So why do you feel you can’t address these things? “

    If Allegra will forgive me for jumping in on her toes and Miss Kagashi will forgive us all for side-tracking the original post a little…

    The important thing to understand about the ‘equality’ debate is the relationship of power structures. In Western society, almost all the power is held by white, able-bodied, straight (acting), cis-gendered men. These are the people who decide what children should be taught in schools, and how they should be taught it. These are the people who decide what advertising campaigns should look like. These are the people who decide what television shows get commissioned and what the cast of those shows look like. These are the people who make the big-budget movies. These are the people who are the directors, CEOs and major shareholders of the multi-national companies.

    The idea of ‘everyone having an equal voice’ is part strawman and part distant-future ideal. Imagine you’re in a room full of people, a townhall. There’s a debate going on. The people chairing the debate are white, able-bodied, cis-gendered, straight-acting men. The majority of people in the debate are the same. There’s an almost equal number of women, and maybe twenty percent make up all the ‘others’–the people of colour, the disabled, the homosexuals etc etc. If everyone has an equal voice, than whatever the majority want to get heard will get heard. There are more of them, and they can shout louder than everyone else. They can drown out any other point of view.

    So, what I’m suggesting is that the majority shut the hell up and let some other people speak. The majority–the dominant cultural groups–have held the floor by shouting down any other group for centuries. Often, they’ve resorted to violence. It’s not about being colourblind, it’s about giving every group an equal voice. That means a group with less members getting the same voice as a group with more members. Is that fair? When those smaller groups are still being denied jobs, beaten up, hassled by the police and not taken seriously by the larger groups, yes it is. When every shop has disabled access and people of colour can work for a company without other employees thinking they got the job because of ‘affirmative action’–hell, when words like, ‘fag’ aren’t used as insults any more–than we can talk about everyone having an equal voice. Until then, we in the majority need to spend a few years sitting quietly and listening.

  8. I’m short on time today so I have to make this brief. My goal here was to start a discussion by playing devil’s advocate. I am for the record, I hold a BA in anthropology and an MA in cultural studies, so I’m pretty well read on multiple aspects of identity politics. I’m pro-diversity pro-gay rights, have always thought of myself as a feminist (so much so that I’m almost exclusively attracted to strong outspoken women). I support affirmative action, despite the fact I’ve been the victim of reverse discrimination more than once. I support the current discussion of diversity in the steampunk movement whole-heartedly.

    What I am against simplistic one-sided discussions about anything. Over arching power systems are always complicated by smaller power systems within, not to mention real-life human experience. Political power systems shift constantly. Neo-Conservatives are pro-diversity too. It furthers their goal of having multi-national corporations control the world. I don’t think it helps the steampunk movement to have the politically active among us look like stereotypical knee-jerk liberals so I jumped in to complicate the discussion. I used satirical overstatements like “I am evil,” to keep the discussion civil. It seems to have worked.

  9. I do agree that discussion is important, however I really don’t think that hijacking a post about Native American/First Nations costuming and steampunk is the best place to do it. Perhaps your time would have been better spent writing an article for the magazine, or the website.

    We have worked hard over the last few months to try and make SteamPunk Magazine a safe space for social minorities to become involved in the community, which this sort of activity only detracts from (the reason why any incendiary and derailing comments are now automatically deleted). Also, on a personal note, Dylan and I (as well as many other people who frequent this website) spend an awful lot of our time having these same arguments about race/gender/sexuality over and over and over again. It’s not something we do because we enjoy smashing our heads against brick walls. A lot of the time, it’s frustrating, infuriating, upsetting, or just plain unpleasant, and having our time wasted by someone that instigates a discussion simply for the sake of doing so is not something that makes me very happy.

    I would advise you to bear that in mind in the future before you decide to ‘provoke discussion’ on this website again.

  10. “Over arching power systems are always complicated by smaller power systems within, not to mention real-life human experience.”

    I don’t think anyone can argue with that. But we don’t focus on that because we can’t and we shouldn’t. We can’t because it’s impossible to have a worthwhile discussion about local power systems when you’re talking to people from other countries and other cultures. It would be damned idiotic of me to talk about the individual power systems here in Wales and assume they apply to every other Western country, and everyone who happens to be reading a post on the Internet. And we shouldn’t because those who don’t want their privilege challenged often take a ‘divide and conquer’ approach. It’s irresponsible of us to give them more ammunition. The differences need to the discussed and argued out, without doubt, but not in a public forum which isn’t a specifically designed ‘safe space’ (this blog tries to be as safe as possible, but it’s about Steampunk, not about equality…)

    As for people thinking we’re ‘knee-jerk liberals’, fuck ‘em. Even a cursory look through the archives here will disprove that. If someone has decided they can determine and disregard our entire political stance from one post where we express the opinion that all humans are of equal value, then no amount of discussion is going to convince them otherwise. The kind of people who choose to see the world in simple shades of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ with one single opinion being enough to determine which side a person falls on, and from that their views on every other matter determined, aren’t the sort of people who respond well to debate of any type.

    And I think Allegra’s right: We’ve had this discussion plenty of times before and believe me, there was nothing in your post which sounded like a ‘satirical over-statement’. Not compared to what some people write in all earnestness. I have respect for the academic qualifications that you’ve earned, but I’m sure they can be put to better use than getting us to tread over the same old ground. We don’t just have these arguments on this blog. We have them on others, we have them with people we work with and we have them with our friends. We’ll keep on having them just so long as we have the spoons to do so, but I certainly don’t appreciate my time and energy being wilfully wasted.

  11. Starting a discussion by playing devil’s advocate, when that discussion is about other people’s real-life experience, is irresponsible and thoughtless, but even more to the point, it’s just rude–a four-letter word I’d have liked to think one steampunk would never have cause to use to describe another.

  12. Before I address ProfGreyshade, I’d like to thank him for providing a really excellent example of ‘But What About The White Men’ style derailing – when a white man wandering into a discussion that people who are not white men are having about people who are not white men and wonders aloud why they’re having that discussion at all and how horrible it is that he feels excluded. That said, I’d like to address many of ProfGreyshade’s statements point by point.

    “I find these multi-ethnic and GBLT discussions fascinating but also rather uncomfortable.”

    You need not participate in them. They’ll go on just fine without your personal input, I assure you.

    ” I am evil and there is very little I can do about it.”

    Realize that these discussions aren’t really about you. Recognition of Kyriarchy and activism against it is about systems, not individual people. You can do nothing about the privilege that you receive from the society in which you live; this doesn’t make you evil. Complaining that you feel personally attacked for being informed of your privilege is just a tad melodramatic, though.

    “By studying other cultures I was participating in imperialism”

    The correct way to learn about other cultures is by attentively listening to the people who live within those cultures tell you about them if and when they so choose – at appropriate times or places, you might be invited to ask questions. This is opposed to studying them as if they were objects or animals. It is the latter approach – common operating procedure for Western Cultures studying Everyone Else for the better part of the 19th and 20th centuries – that is generally criticized.

    “If I wear clothes that are Western and English I am participating in racist ethnocentric imperialist aspects of steampunk. I am evil. However if I wear clothes from any other culture it is an act of theft and appropriation and again, I am evil.”

    Again, these statements show a bit of obsession with You and how You are perceived. Please realize that no one is attacking You. We’re criticizing movements and social systems. Dress mindfully – it’s fine to dress up as a typical 19th century British citizen (Or airship captain, or time traveler) but it’s no more appropriate to dress up as a ‘Congo Explorer’ in full khakis with pith helmet (Unless you’re doing something that very seriously subverts the outfit in your presentation) that is it to dress in full SS Uniform – both have connotations of genocide.

    And yes, generally when you wear clothing from a culture in which you are not a member, you’re appropriating. The entire world is not yours to have and play with as you choose, and when you choose to appropriate you might be called on it.

    “So do any of you have any advice on how I can participate in the steampunk movement without being evil?”

    Stop assuming that it’s about you. Listen to what others are saying. Know that you will probably screw up. Use the following advice when you do:

    http://www.amptoons.com/blog/archives/2005/12/02/how-not-to-be-insane-when-accused-of-racism/

    “My goal here was to start a discussion by playing devil’s advocate.”

    The devil needs no advocacy. That’s basic derailing. See the very first paragraph of this post, and see also http://www.derailingfordummies.com/#surprise

    “I am against simplistic one-sided discussions about anything”

    Because anything that doesn’t include (and by include, we mean center upon) your side is clearly one-sided. It’s unthinkable that people could have a worthwhile and multifaceted conversation on dimensions of ethnic steampunk without talking about you.

    “I don’t think it helps the steampunk movement to have the politically active among us look like stereotypical knee-jerk liberals so I jumped in to complicate the discussion”

    So… concerning trolling then ( http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=concern+troll , http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-concern-trolling.htm )? Class act, you are.

    “I used satirical overstatements like “I am evil,” to keep the discussion civil.”

    Which implies an assumption that it otherwise would not be. Such a high opinion you have of us, good sir. Feel free to ignore my icy, icy stare at this point.

  13. What the fuck, Moniquill, way to steal that white man’s thunder. Can’t you see he’s feeling all down for being evil and stuff already?!

    White dude, I don’t know what your beef is, but seeing as the original post didn’t actually have anything terribly ideological inherent beyond highlighting perspectives that are rarely heard, your attempt to “complicate the discussion” just reads as flat-out trolling.

    I manage to learn about the genocidal history of white people without hating on white people, yet somehow, so many white people can’t learn about their genocidal history without thinking everyone’s morally judging them as personally evil. I mean, do you think so little of the rest of us? Really? Do you seriously think we’re out to get you? Like we’re waiting in the bushes for you to slip up so we can go “AHA! I *knew* you’re a racist! You’re just like other white racists!”?

    Seriously. You’ve just demonstrated a level of non-engagement that lends itself to an appalling condescension. I can’t think of a more anti-intellectual stance to take, besides flat-out ignorance. If you don’t want to engage with us, or help us deal with institutional racism, then don’t. Our movements need allies, not indifferent, self-centered jerks.

  14. What Jha said. How was this post in any way about anything you’re talking about? Especially when there are multiple links to multiple articles by multiple people representing various points of view? Some really patient people on this thread, too.

    Anyway, nice series of links. When steampunkbible.com goes live, we’ll have to highlight some of these.

    JeffV

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