Monday, January 9, 2012

MRP Adventures: Postcolonial Steampunk

I just thought I would share a paragraph I wrote about why I chose postcolonialism as my theoretical framework with which to tackle steampunk:

Steampunk and postcolonialism can be used together very neatly to challenge dominant ideology and representation trends, no matter what media. The combination may seem incongruous: steampunk at first blush glorifies just about anything postcolonialism critiques. Moreover, postcolonialism is an ambiguous term that cannot be used to describe any single aspect of any decolonization process that have happened or is happening, making the idea of postcolonial steampunk messier than either term on its own. However, postcolonialism implies a temporal aftermath of colonizers leaving the shores of the colonized, which does not reflect many of the various contexts of once-colonized countries, as late capitalism enables a form of neo-colonial domination. In using postcolonialism to identify colonial narratives, it is possible to conflate whole swathes of histories into a single process, a linear history of colonialism, decolonization, and post-colonization when attempting to historicize global narratives of international relations. Yet, the term itself points to a history of colonialism, and in application to steampunk, forces the reader to acknowledge that is steampunk evokes the past, then it will also evoke a colonial past, and a responsible writer will explore how inequalities were imposed on colonized peoples.
Postcolonialism as a field in its many forms matches steampunk’s predilection of looking backwards; where steampunk does so to mine for inspiration, postcolonialism does so to understand the historical specificities of different cultural and national contexts—so steampunk informed by postcolonialism offers a cultural product that lends understanding to a genre-reading audience. Both explore the notion of hybridity; postcolonialism in cultural terms, steampunk in temporal ways, allowing a writer of colour to dabble in anachronism and think through hyphenated and multi-heritage identities, which is incredibly useful given migration flows, issues of assimilation and segregation, and the impact of technology on the former two. This also allows us to think through the process of colonization and methods of empowerment. Not only that, but the resistance to fixed conventions in steampunk literature refuse a homogeneity that people of colour writing from a postcolonial framework can use to trouble imperialistic efforts to enforce a single ideal, no matter what manifestation. 
I kinda wish I thought of this before actually writing the entire damn paper because it might have given me some much-needed direction, but apparently I needed about 21 single-spaced pages or 13,000 words before this idea occurred to me. But that's kinda how on-going work happens, you know? Heed my words, MA students: you might as well get started as soon as possible so you can get to these nuggets of awesome sooner.

So who wants to see my whole MRP on this blog?! :P