April 20, 2012
Sociology Professor Mark Cohan discussed the Steampunk subculture at the 2012 annual meeting of the Pacific Sociological Association held in San Diego. His paper, “The Problem of Gears and Goggles: Managing Membership Boundaries and Identities in the Steampunk Subculture,” examined a local steampunk group’s norms and behaviors. “Steampunk is a modern subculture developed by enthusiasts of Victorian science fiction that invites questioning and play around people's relationship with technology,” Cohan said. Steampunk participants create stories, costumes, games, and gadgets. They also arrange social gatherings that imagine how present and future worlds could be blended with the era of steam power. Steampunk is often focused on the Victorian Era and the British Empire. However, retro-futurist visions of futures based in other 19th century cultures, such as American, Asian, Middle-Eastern, and First Nation, have also been created. Cohan looked at how the subculture is evolving as it adapts to an ever-changing membership base. “The members adhere to a norm of radical inclusivity that dictates that no one should be turned away or left out,” Cohan noted. “At the same time, steampunk itself is a fragmented phenomenon. It refers to many different activities and participants define it in divergent, even contradictory ways.” Cohan received his Ph.D. from the University of Florida. He joined the faculty in the Anthropology, Sociology and Social Work Department in 2002. His research focuses on social psychology, gender, sexuality, and the scholarship of teaching and learning. The College of Arts and Sciences, the largest college in Seattle University, offers 33 undergraduate and 7 advanced degrees.
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