Those writing their PhDs on the steampunk movement will probably not agree, but the modern movement to end global slavery is kind of political steampunk. The anti-trafficking movement has the drive to change the configuration of the world (though this could be said of any human rights movement).
Most importantly, some people in the anti-trafficking movement draws on the language of abolition to make their cases. Some people call themselves abolutionists and call human trafficking modern-day slavery. By drawing on our collective memory of the horrors of antebellum slavery, these activists are invoking an idealized past to comment on the present. Sound like a speculative-fiction genre we know of? Here are some pictures to illustrate:
While Steampunk is primarily a literary, fashion and technical movement, the Gaslight era also has rich veins of political commentary potential. Maybe anti-trafficking folks could hook into those sections of the culture with a stronger presence at fan-cons and more brass decorations .
“The blunting effects of slavery upon the slaveholder’s moral perceptions are known and conceded the world over; and a privileged class, an aristocracy, is but a band of slaveholders under another name”–Mark Twain
you may be interpreting the term steampunk a bit too liberally. Where’s the anachronism? Where are the valves and the goggles? I don’t think your argument for why it approaches political steampunk is strong enough to brandish the word.
p.s. your “Blogs of Friends” roll on the side of your page has some errors, you may want to look into it. Or get rid of it, either way.
As it turns out, the academic doing his PhD thinks there’s a lot of room for what you’re talking about. I just wouldn’t call it essential, as some do. This is a really great intersection of steampunk study that has connections to steampunk activists, as well as writers seeking to give their steampunk fiction a political thrust.
I’m glad someone agrees! Spend enough time in the “abolitionist” movement, and you start seeing some serious parallels, both intentional and accidental. A lot of the future-focused innovation that characterizes the fashion of steam punk also influenced the revolutionary social movements which were contemporaneous. For anyone, privileged by race, gender, or class, or not, to say there should be no slavery in the world was as ridiculous a statement in antebellum USA as Wells’ time machine or Verne’s submarine.