Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Steampunking: Finding L'Acadie

It's been pointed out to me by my friend Tariq that there is a problem with one of the statements I made recently:

Being accepted is not the same as being actively welcomed.

He responded, and I paraphrase him, being actively welcomed still has that sense of being invited into a space that is not our own, and part of the challenge that PoC face is to find spaces where we are not the Token Minority, and seek (or create) spaces where we feel at home.

Not just tolerated, not just accepted, not just welcomed - spaces where we belong.

You know, places where we can go home to.

When my parents were last in Canada, we went to PEI, and ended up at a museum of sorts, and stayed to watch one of those multi-layered shows which combined film, light and backstage flats on Acadians, how the British and the French tussled over the land, unsurprisingly with few references to aboriginals at all, and how some of the Acadians were deported to places like New Orleans.

I was struck by a scene wherein some of the Acadians were allowed back to the Maritimes, to Acadie, as they called it, and the narrator was an old woman, telling us about the trip back to Acadia, and finally someone on deck sighted land and cried, "Acadie! Acadie!" and she says something like, "we heard, home".

Acadie means "idyllic land". I don't know what the aboriginals called the Maritimes, but Halifax region was Chebucto - Great Harbour.

It makes some sense to me how the Acadian French could have carved out a home here. According to various sources on the Interwebs, they made friends with the local aboriginals, and it remained that way until the usual stuff happened.

Anyways, the point is that, the Acadians managed to carve themselves a home on the coasts of the Canadian Maritimes, at times at the cost of the aboriginals.

While I do not want to encroach on the traditionally Victorian territory of steampunk - mostly because I like it, and partly because I know the pain of appropriation, and while it might be nice revenge to have my white peers feel it for a change so they actually get what I'm talking about, it would be utterly unproductive - I do want to carve out for myself, and for my SoC peers, a space where we can call home. Where we can build lives and narratives and myths for ourselves that isn't forced on us by the larger narrative. Where we don't feel like minorities simply for factoring in parts of ourselves.

The nice thing about steampunk, and how it's so markedly different from colonialism of the past is that steampunk is an abstract thing, and I highly doubt SoC are ever going to reach the same level of cultural genocide as committed by the colonists. We are not here to encroach, we are not here to take over, we are not here to push anybody out of the way. We are here to participate and we are here to share.

But at the moment, despite protestations from many steampunks I've seen that "in steampunk, race doesn't matter", it feels like I am a guest in someone else's house. It doesn't turn me off because I've been a guest in many places and I've learned how to deal with it fairly well, but I know it's one of the reasons why many SoC do not participate as wholly as they would like to. But it's sometimes not enough, to be a guest.

We want to feel like we are home. And to do so, we must speak, openly, about how we feel our heritages will factor into our steampunking, or how it will not. We must look at our lands and imagine them without colonists, or if there are, we must imagine the colonists on our own terms. We must see ourselves in these foreign lands, understand our privileges and lack thereof, and critique the colonialism of the past. There are many many more other things we could be doing before we can say, we own our places in this subculture.

It'll take time because we find our l'acadie.

2 comments:

  1. Why do I always seem to get to your posts at midnight, when I can't think of a better thing to say than, "Yes. This is what I mean and this is why I do this." ^-^

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  2. I just wanted to say thank you, not just for this post, but every one of them discussing steampunk and race. It's an issue that's been bugging me since I started doing more than just glancing at photos of steampunked computers or outfits, and it's one I can't articulate nearly as well as you do.

    So, thank you. :)

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