If you follow me on twitter (@Nimue_B) you’ll have seen me using #steampunkhands in the last few weeks and sharing content from international Steampunks. There’s a facebook group here with more information. Steampunk Hands Around the World, is pretty much as it sounds, a month of sharing content, ideas and creativity with a view to reaching out around the globe and making connections. Lots of information on this website, too. http://airshipambassador.wordpress.com/
Steampunk is all too often accused of being some covert program for racism and colonialism. One of the things Steampunk Hands is demonstrating, is that Steampunks are everywhere, in all kinds of cultures and drawing on an incredible diversity of history and imagery. Once you get into Steampunk, it becomes apparent that there is much more subversion going on that re-enactment. We owe more to the many subcultures of the period than to mainstream Victorian era colonialism, patriarchy, oppression or prejudice. Those period subcultures were amazing, and still incredibly relevant and resonant.
How to participate in this project? I wanted to do something that tapped into the international flavour and the sense of glorious exotic otherness (we are all that to each other), without falling into the traps of accidental racism or cultural appropriation. I am, after all, a pale skinned, dark haired woman of Northern European ancestry. This is an ongoing issue for me in all my work – the desire to include, balanced against the desire not to inadvertently appropriate or patronise. It’s a bit of a tightrope to walk.
I wrote a piece, working with one of the characters from Hopeless Maine. Balthazar Lemon, who features in volume 2, is a man of uncertain origins. That gave me a space to talk about the very idea of ‘where we come from’ and to reflect on the relationship between identity and perceptions, culture and place of origin, how we fit and do not fit, where we assume the right to belong, and where we do not. These are not issues that belong to a specific race or culture. No matter how inside, or outside we feel, how rooted or unsettled, how much we want to belong or want to escape, the way we make our origins part of ourselves, is an issue. The way we look at other people and make stories about what their origin and culture means.
In the Druid community this can mean we consider those who are ethnically Welsh and Irish to be more authentic. Across Paganism, we tend to romanticise the presence of Native American genetic heritage. Around the world, many people are grappling with the issues of how to take intrinsically European Pagan ideas, rooted in seasons that do not exist everywhere, and persuade that to make sense some other place. Who we are and where we come from… it has a lot of implications.
And now, a small audio clip, voiced by Tom Brown.