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Their own devices: steampunk airships as heterotopias of crisis and deviance

Faculty Advisor




airships, Foucault, heterotopia of crisis, heterotopia of deviance, Gail Carriger, neo-Victorian, Scott Westerfeld, steampunk, Young Adult (YA) fiction

Abstract (summary)

Michel Foucault uses a sailing vessel as the exemplar of his theory of heterotopia because of its mobility. The lateral and vertical mobility of the steampunk airship indicates the potential for an even greater exemplar of heterotopia, particularly of Foucault’s defining principles of heterotopic crisis and deviance. These principles are explored onboard the steampunk airships of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy and Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series, resulting in travel towards progressive social frontiers of gender and race. The protagonists of the Leviathan trilogy move from a position of crisis to deviance, as mediated through the friendship and romance of two representatives of warring factions. In contrast, the heroine of the Finishing School series moves from deviance to crisis as she navigates the vagaries of gender and racial identity. These airship heterotopias of young adult fiction, which not only descend geographically but also socially, cross liminal crisis spaces of class, race, gender, and identity to craft literary cartographies for these social frontiers, providing readers with literary maps for their uncertain real worlds of crisis.

Publication Information

Krentz, C.; Perschon, M.; St. Amand, A. Their Own Devices: Steampunk Airships as Heterotopias of Crisis and Deviance. Humanities 2022, 11, 14.


Item Type




Attribution (CC BY)