Reclaiming the Machine:

An Introductory Look at Steampunk in Everyday Practice


  • Rebecca Onion University of Texas at Austin


blog, class, craft, gender, genre, machines, material culture, science, technology, zine


Steampunk, a multi-textual aesthetic which first began to form in the late 1980s, imagines the world as it was during the early Victorian era, when steam power still fuelled machines. The steampunk aesthetic was initially found in fiction, but has moved into film, graphic novels, music, and practices of vernacular craft. This paper traces the history of the genre and then moves into an analysis of these crafting practices, asking broad questions about what motivates those who make modern-day steampunk objects. Analysing blog entries, zines, and objects themselves, I posit that a desire to regain a human connection with the machine world underlies the work of steampunk practitioners, concluding that steampunk seeks to restore coherence to a perceived 'lost' mechanical world.