Using Sci-Fi To Understand The Racism Experienced By East-Asian Communities In The U.K.

The representation of East Asian people in Sci-Fi and the media, and what it teaches about racism, will be explored at an event hosted by the Diocese of Southwark during Refugee Week (20 to 26 June).  The Revd. Mark Yan Ying Sum Nam will bring his insights into conversation with scripture to re-imagine a post-racial Britain for East-Asian diaspora, and how the Church might respond.  

Speaking of the upcoming event, “Techno-Orientalism – Re-imagining a Post-Racial Britain for East Asian Diaspora”, which takes place online on Wednesday 22 June at 7.30pm, Mark said, “My hope is that people will have a greater awareness and deeper understanding of the racism suffered by East-Asian communities in the U.K., and how incorporating the concerns and insights of East-Asians can breathe new impetus into conversations around racial justice. A third conversation partner can triangulate difficult discussions around race and open up new vistas and possibilities. I hope to illustrate that embracing diversity is a deeply biblical mandate.”

The Archdeacon of Lambeth, the Venerable Simon Gates, said, “As a Diocese, we are beginning to welcome arrivals from Hong Kong as they start a new life in the U.K.  We are building up a network of churches supporting one another and sharing good practice.  Key to our welcome is the understanding our Anti-Racism Charter gives us, and that Hong Kong Chinese experience racism in different ways to other communities.  Rev Mark Nam gives a great but also disturbing insight into the casual racism so often experienced and will help us in whatever communities our churches are welcoming to think through the way racism stereotypes and oppresses people.”

The Revd Gemma Birt is Assistant Curate at St John’s, East Dulwich. Her heritage is Singaporean Chinese and German. She said,

Mark’s careful and insightful exploration shows how prejudice and racism against people of Chinese and East Asian ethnicity is often perniciously hidden in popular culture.  As a Diocese, and in our parishes, we have committed ourselves to be anti-racist. This means that we must work to dismantle the myriad of biases, conscious and unconscious, that cause racial injustice, pain, and suffering. Mark’s talk is an important one to listen to and reflect on if we are ever going to fully love and welcome our neighbours as ourselves.

Much of the Science Fiction that was written during the 20th Century reflected Western anxieties around rapid technological advancements in countries such as Japan, Korea, and later China. “These anxieties were expressed in dystopian visions of the future where East-Asians are depicted as a threat and as perpetual foreigners. Unsurprisingly, this speculative narrative fuels societies’ imagination and provides an effective lens by which to analyse the types of racism endured by East-Asians today and how to avoid them,” said Mark.

The Revd Canon Andrew Zihni is Precentor at Southwark Cathedral and has Hong Kong Chinese and Middle Eastern heritage. He said,

Mark Nam has a great deal of wisdom to share on the issues around racism faced by members of Chinese and East Asian communities in the UK. This event will provide a theological context and insightful reflections on how we can make a real difference for our brothers and sisters from Hong Kong, and East Asia more widely, through the welcome and advocacy we provide.

Techno-orientalism is the imagining of East-Asian peoples and places in hyper-technological terms in literary, cinematic, and other media representations, whilst critically examining the racist stereotyping of East-Asians as technologically advanced, but intellectually primitive, in dire need of Western consciousness-raising — i.e. colonisation.

If you are interested in attending, email JPICAdmin@southwark.anglican.org to register.

Written by: Sophia Jones

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