Monday, August 31, 2009

Steampunking: Hello From the "Mysterious Orient"

To my esteemed peers, the children of Victoriana,

Whilst I deeply appreciate how the Industrial Revolution has greatly affected your knowledge of lands beyond your little island on the western side of the European continent, I must object to your calling of the lands of my origins as "the Mysterious Orient".

To be perfectly frank, I have never understood this term as being applicable once your empire began to colonize the Orient. In fact, it was never truly applicable as your various East India Companies (in the plural, for the British East India Company was never the only East India Company in existance) had been trading with us in the Orient since the 1700s - earlier, even. I can hardly fathom how we were so mysterious to you if you had already been visiting our lands since then.

However, I can forgive this slight - if we were still travelling between continents by great ships and using paper for communiques.

In this day and age, with the advent of the Internet with which we utilize for self-education and the search for knowledge and other persons (or one would hope), I should hope that you would no longer use the term "Mysterious Orient" because, after all, everything you want to know about the damned Orient is right there at your fingertips.

Let me be sure to have you know this: we are not waiting for you to discover us or our "mysteries". In fact, we are not so terribly mysterious today as we may have been in Victoria's time, and I am sure we have demonstrated time and again, just how very un-mysterious we are, how very much like you we are in many ways, being, after all, people.

What puzzles me most is your insistent use of the term "Mysterious Orient" in a completely non-ironical manner. I will grant that perhaps you are unaware of just how ignorant you sound. After all, many of us are unintentionally racist - it is a continual process to de-learn all the little racist nuances.

Yet, the Internet! My excellent peers, the Internet, it exists for this purpose! Through the vast swathes of knowledge in the Internet, surely you might have come across the idea that perhaps, just perhaps, calling my land "the Mysterious Orient" is somewhat inappropriate, given this day and age in when my people walk amongst your own, demonstrationg quite well, I may add, that we are, for all intents and purposes, just like you?

Not so mysterious, after all.

I understand that were you truly the clueless foreigner, you may well call us the Mysterious Orient, but I fail to see why you would wish to hold on to that style of ignorance, especially in daily language, unless you were using it self-reflexively for the purpose of role-playing. In which case, I entreat you - actually, I'm just plain flat out telling you - use with care, use with caution, and do not assume we all are okay with it.

While I'm at it - Oriental is a descriptor for objects, such as rugs.


Yours most lovingly in common humanity,
Jha

10 comments:

  1. ok so i see your point...we're not living in the colonial days anymore after all...
    however i'm wondering exactly where it is that you're referring to that still uses this phrase these days? --other than when aimed at people who actually ARE ignorant of "the orient"?? and surely in that context it's appropriate for those ignoramus's...

    also--im curious at to how the opening word of your blog has ANY relevance to the content? as a fan of steampunk i started reading this thinking it would have something about THAT within--and as the term "steampunk" is well established and commonly in usage these days--ESPECIALLY for someone like yourself who advocates using the net for gaining knowledge, i cant help but feel 'twas false advertising!....

    kinda like some dickhead travel agent referring to "the mysterious orient" hmmmm???
    :)

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  2. YES. THIS.

    Was this comment triggered by anything?

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  3. are you referring to my comment dmp or the blog?

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  4. openfordiscussion: What the first line has to do with the content? I don't know what you mean by this. I'll take it on good faith that you've never heard the phrase dropped in your presence. You wouldn't be the first clueless person in the world then.

    dmp: I saw someone using it on the Empire. I posted something snarky in response, but it bugged me that people would still say that.

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  5. Hi, first comment here... and it's sort of on and off topic. On topic = steampunk, off topic = not anti-racist related...

    You really should check out artworks by James Ng - he's done some pretty cool illustrations of Qing Dynastic/Victorian Era/Steampunk styled works

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  6. *dynastic should be dynasty lol (I am really talented at typing the wrong things)

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  7. gooblyglob: Hi! Welcome to my space =) *clicks link* I feel you're familiar! Do I know you from somewhere?

    ....................... You know, I was feeling really shitty at having to deal with a troll at the Redux Edition all night and I think with that link you just made my entire fucking night SO MUCH BETTER. THANK YOU. I am going to finish weeping at this awesomeness and sleep well, after which only then will I be capable of figuring out how to thank you properly.

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  8. You're most welcome, I'm glad you are impressed with James Ng's work as I am! I've posted as TN in your new post at Racialicious and I've just added you on twitter :)

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  9. The terminology of objects -- using "oriental" to describe people -- is still such a pervasive problem that the Governor of NY has had to issue an edict to strike such usage from government docs:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112465167&ps=cprs

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  10. That is fascinating, malinda. Good on the Governer of NY. Thanks for the link!

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