Tag Archives: “middle east”

Beyond Victoriana Special Edition Odds & Ends #5

This weekend I’ll be at ConnectiCon instigating havoc with my steampunk friends and helping out with several panels. On top of that, “Steam Around the World: Steampunk Beyond Victoriana” is making a comeback! I’m wicked excited to be presenting this panel again. For all attendees, feel free to stop in–

Saturday, July 10th
7:30 – 8:30 PM
Room Location: Check your schedules

And for those of you in the area, I will also be at the Steampunk Bizarre on Sunday for the steampunk meet-up. There should be some nifty artists presenting their work, so I hope to see some of you there too.

In the meantime, check out the collection of links for your viewing/reading pleasure.

Continue reading

10 Comments

Filed under Beyond Victoriana Odds and Ends, Linkspams

#28 Harun ar-Raschid and the Golden Age of Islam — Guest Blog by Jaymee Goh

Harun Ar-Raschid. Image coutesy of Wikipedia

Harun Ar-Raschid (also spelled as Harun Al-Raschid) was a caliph of Baghdad during the Abbasid dynasty who reigned from 786 to 809 A.D. His court was arguably the most memorable of the Abbasid dynasty, and he was the inspiration for many tales in One Thousand and One Nights.

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under History

Beyond Victoriana Special Edition Odds & Ends #4

I’m preparing for some big events in May (like co-hosting two panels at the Steampunk World’s Fair. Will you be coming? It’s bound to be INTELLECTUALLY STIMULATING and IMMENSELY ENTERTAINING.) Thus, the next post will be delayed. But never fear, I have some nifty reads that have been building up in my inbox for you to check out after the cut.

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Beyond Victoriana Odds and Ends, Linkspams

#21 Shimmies and Sprockets: Analyzing the Use of Belly Dance in Steampunk

Image courtesy of Read My Hips. Click for Source

The lights dim. The beat of the music fills the stage. The camera’s scope settles upon Captain Robert of Abney Park and the young woman at his side. Dressed in a leather halter top, an aviator cap, and voluminous skirts, Magdalene Veen sways on stage as Captain Robert croons the lyrics to “Death of a Hero”. Again and again, the camera returns to capture her lithe form as she twirls and shimmies. Taken at Convergence 13 in 2007, this performance is available on Abney Park’s website and not only showcases the band’s steampunk aesthetic but also adds a non-Eurocentric aspect physically symbolized by Ms. Veen’s dancing. Although Abney Park’s incorporation of belly dance into its stage show is most likely a carryover from its gothic dance roots and world music influences, it has nevertheless helped inspire many belly dancers and steampunks alike to add goggles, bloomers, and corsets to their dancing.

In fact, steampunk bellydance has been on the rise. Several belly dance companies—such as Read My Hips in Chicago, Pavlov’s Hips in Kansas City, and Troop Moirae in Massachusetts—have done steamy performances that can be viewed on their troop websites or YouTube. As another sign of its blooming popularity, the dancer Tempest, best known as the co-producer of Gothla US, the largest Gothic/Fusion Festival in North America, named the most recent festival “Cogs in Motion” and conducts steampunk belly dance workshops across the United States.

Steampunk belly dance may seem out of place in a genre known for its Victoriana. Historically, belly dance existed for thousands of years in northern Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Dancing techniques vary widely, with each region engaging different parts of the body in a series of various undulations, shimmies, and circles—the hips, the torso, their arms, and even through certain facial expressions and hand gestures. However, ever since European explorers made their way eastward, accounts of belly dance have been recorded in their travelogues since the 1600s. With the rise of Western imperialism in the nineteenth century, many travelers from Europe and America added belly dance to their Far East itineraries: the most famous account is French author Gustave Flaubert’s series of letters about his intimate encounters with Egyptian dancer Kuchuk Hanem (and just one of many cases of Western associations between sex, prostitution, and the Eastern woman).

Middle Eastern dance was showcased at many world’s fairs throughout the late nineteenth century, but the dance form achieved popular recognition in the West at Chicago’s Columbian World’s Exposition in 1893. According to Anthony Shay and Barbara Sellers-Young, authors of Belly Dance: Orientalism, Transnationalism, and Harem Fantasy, Sol Bloom, manager of the Midway Plaisance, promoted his Egyptian dancers’ performances as “belly dance” in order to attract audiences. Academic professor Zeynep Çelik spoke about how the press couldn’t get enough of the “new obsession” at the World’s Exposition. Thousands flocked to see the performers and newspapers cheekily remarked how “the soiled devotees of Constantinople and Cairo corrupted Western morals by the seductive allurements of the danse-du-ventre.” Thus, ever since its first forays into Western cultural consciousness, belly dance has been (and remains) associated with hyper-sexualized Orientalist imagery. Its resurgence as a popular dance form today has triggered concern within the Muslim community about popular misconceptions of Middle Eastern culture. As frequent contributor Fatemeh writes on the blog Muslimah Media Watch, “I take offense at the presentation of Middle Eastern ‘culture’ through things like transparent veils, coin necklaces, and henna tattoos because reducing the Middle Eastern experience to some jingly coins and a scimitar takes the humanity right out of us.”

So the position of belly dance within steampunk art is a polemical one. Dancers have interpreted steampunk as a current fad, a fashion aesthetic, and a form of neo-Victorian inspiration. Yet the intersection of steampunk and belly dance raises the concern about whether steampunk sanctions romanticized Orientialism. Not only that, but questions over co-opting come into play. Co-opting in general is defined as the use of something from a particular culture by members outside that culture. This “use” isn’t inherently bad, but can cross the line of cultural respect between the users and the originators. So, by applying a Westernized aesthetic to a dance form that has non-Western origins, does appreciation for the cultural roots of the dance get lost in its Europeanized glamour? Does the participation and emphasis upon Eurocentric, Western dancers in the community overshadow the historically marginalized dancers who originated it? With steampunk, is the West “stealing” belly dance from its native culture? These questions aren’t the easiest to answer but one way to investigate them is by looking at how belly dancers interpret and use steampunk in their art and how modern belly dance itself became established as an art form.

Read the full article in Steampunk Magazine’s upcoming Issue #7: New and Future Worlds

And of course, I have to thank the following steampunk belly dancers who offered to be interviewed for this article.  All of them contributed unique perspectives and insight into the art of belly dance and concerning steampunk; this article would not be possible without their help. They are spotlighted under the cut, along with my research sources for the article.

Continue reading

12 Comments

Filed under Essays

Beyond Victoriana Special Edition: Odds & Ends #3

I’ll be at ICON in Long Island this weekend and so I’ll be leaving a few tidbits for you to munch on while I’m out (by the way, my con schedule is easily traceable).

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Beyond Victoriana Odds and Ends, History, Linkspams

#19: Lalla Essaydi Speaking Through the Exotic

“In my art, I wish to present myself through multiple lenses—as artist, as Moroccan, as Saudi, as traditionalist, as Liberal, as Muslim. In short, I invite the viewer to resist stereotypes.” Lalla Essaydi (source)

Lalla Essaydi is not a steampunk, but her latest photography series is, in essence, what multicultural steampunk can be: a framework in which representations of the past can be questioned by the present.

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Essays

#17.5 Steampunk and Victorientalism Assessed

The past week has been a flurry of conversation about the use and meaning of “Victorientalism”. As part of this discussion, I wanted to highlight the various opinions expressed over this issue.

Continue reading

Comments Off on #17.5 Steampunk and Victorientalism Assessed

Filed under Announcement, Essays

#17 The Semantics of Words & the Antics of Fashion: Addressing “Victorientalism”

Jaymee and I had a discussion the other day triggered by the use of the word “Victorientalism” (also spelled “Vicorientalism”) in the steampunk community and whether it is an appropriate description of the transcultural blend of Eastern and Western fashion. I had my first (rather angry) rant about Orientialism sometime around this time last year, and now would be apt to revisit those thoughts about Victorientalism.

First, let me say that steampunk, because it deals with the dynamics of history and its alternatives, can never, ever be considered apolitical.* History is always subjective, choosing to expose or veil people, events, and perspectives based on the bias of the teller. In fact, it’s not surprising that the most widely-known histories are those written from the perspective of those in the dominant culture and that underrepresented histories are so because they have been ignored or oppressed by institutions in the dominant culture (government policy, school education, media representation, etc).

Even something that seems frivolous like fashion has political ramifications, since clothing, as the most basic form of self-identity, has always being subject of control by others. Threadbared, a journal that focuses on the politics of fashion and beauty, captures the sentiment of how the politics of clothing impact everyday life during their discussion about vintage:

Clothing matters because it is through clothing that persons are understood to matter, or not. Consider the Sartorialist’s captions for the presumably homeless man, or his driver, which attribute to these anonymous figures qualities of human dignity and pride because of what they are wearing. Consider the hijab, and all the histories and conflicts that hinge upon the presence of absence of the veil as a sign of civilization and modernity or its opposite. Consider legislation throughout the centuries to regulate what might be worn by whom: European medieval sumptuary laws forbidding the conspicuous consumption of the bourgeoisie; Dutch colonial missionaries insisting that African “converts” abandon their “heathen” clothes in order to reform their bodies and souls; World War II-era rationing bans on the material extravagance of the “zoot suit,” the informal uniform of black and Chicano youth, as “unpatriotic;” and contemporary legislation across cities in the United States criminalizing black male youth in sagging jeans.

Thus, when speaking about Orientalism aesthetics, its existence as an art form is undeniably entangled with its political and social consequences.

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Essays, History

#11: From One Other to (An)other: Review for Jaclyn Dolamore’s Magic Under Glass

The intelligent automaton—one of the many symbolic Others in sci-fi literature.  When characterized sympathetically, the automaton represents humanity without being human, the lone outsider puzzling the world around it.  The Othered Automaton pops up in steampunk lit too, like Boilerplate and Mattie from The Alchemy of Stone. In both cases, the automaton finds camaraderie with people who feel similarly alienated by the societies they live in; Boilerplate had his Buffalo Soldiers, Mattie had her mechanic dark-skinned lover Sebastian.  But what Jaclyn Dolamore brings to the table is a new perspective to this relationship in her fantasy steampunk novel Magic Under Glass: the protagonist is not the Othered Automaton, but that of Nimira, the human Other seeking her fortune in a strange land.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Review