Steampunking: Are Steampunk Westerns Non-Eurocentric? No

My friend Ay-Leen the Peacemaker is putting together a project called Beyond Victoriana, which will focus on examples of steampunk beyond the typical Eurocentric sampling at the moment, which is predominantly centered around England. Ay-Leen is also taking examples of North American steampunk, and people are citing Wild West / Weird West examples, such as Wild Wild West (TV show and movie).

I myself suggested some Japanese examples which could be counted as steampunk, although I have several reservations about them myself. Mainly because when I think non-Eurocentric, I keep this in mind:

"... By Europeans, we refer not only to Europe per se, but also to the "neo-Europeans" of the Americas, Australia, and elsewhere. ... The residual traces of centuries of axiomatic European domination inform the general culture, the everyday language, and the media, engendering a fictitious sense of the innate superiority of European-derived cultures and peoples."
(Ella Shohat / Robert Stam, Unthinking Eurocentrism, pg 1)

Somewhere on the next page:

"... [Eurocentric discourse] ... renders history as a sequence of empires: Pax Romana, Pax Hispanica, Pax Britannica, Pax Americana."

Which brings me to the question: are Wild West / Weird West examples really non-Eurocentric examples?

Geographically, this may well be the case since they're not in Europe.

However, if we take into account all parties involved - the Chinese labourers, the Native Americans, the black slaves, and the descendents of Europeans (neo-Europeans), the power dynamics indicate very strongly that no matter how geographically removed America is from Europe, the power dynamics remain rested in the hands of the neo-Europeans, which renders Wild West examples that do not prominantly feature visible minorities still Eurocentric.

(Which is also why even the Japanese steampunk examples I cite may be Eurocentric after all - they tend to be Japanese interpretations of the Western steampunk aesthetic. This doesn't make them non-Japanese steampunk examples - they were produced by Japanese people. As kaigou points out, these works are part of a body of literature by members of a specific group - in this case, Japanese (and thus, not European, nor even neo-European). So, it is Japanese steampunk. But does it mean they're non-Eurocentric? Question for another day!)

Of course, detractors will disagree with me and accuse me of messing with details. But the fact remains - Eurocentrism doesn't just mean geographically centered in Europe. Eurocentrism refers not just to geopolitical space, but also to narratives, culture, and discourse. Wild West / Weird West narratives which feature neo-European main characters, narratives and discourse are, thusly Eurocentric. However, it means that a Wild West narrative which features Native American / Aboriginal culture / discourse would be non-Eurocentric.

Hmmmm..... must seek such Native American appearances in steampunk media.


  1. The way I see it, technology has touched almost all of the different cultures in the world and all will have their different actual take on it and imaginative sci-fi (steampunk) response to it... Western Steampunk is definitely Eurocentric to me... they obviously communicated and transferred ideas often via the common English language from Europe to the US and vice versa - even if you look at the types of clothing worn by the Americans and Western Europeans around Victorian times, there are great similarities.

  2. ... besides... with all those conspiracies of aliens and ufos visiting the Americas in the days prior to European invasion would be more than sufficient fodder for Steampunk themes with a strong Native American slant...

  3. That kinda reminds me of that ST:VOY episode where Chakotay meets a group of aliens who basically taught the Native Americans all they knew, and they recognize his heritage by the tattoo on his face.

  4. User lucv-cate is Creek. He does steampunk costuming and performance from that perspective. He's also a lot of fun in real life as well on the net.

    I tend to stick with writing what I know, which tends to be scraps of my own German-Irish family history with steampunk embellishments. The Asian and Native American stories are not mine to tell.

  5. Yeah, and that's perfectly fine, too. That's what I like about steampunk - it really gives the potential for everyone to get back to their own roots and take joy in it, tell their own stories.

    Where can I find lucv-cate? He sounds interesting!

    Thanks for dropping in!

  6. Sorry, that was Live journal user.

    I met him doing an alternative history track panel at Dragon*con.

  7. Wish I had seen this, oh, a year ago! For Aboriginal steampunk, you can see The West Was Lost, a web comic, up at

  8. Aahhh! I remember seeing this once! Thank you! I shall add it to my Silver Goggles reading list!


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