Rujunko Pugh & Marie-Therese Png
‘Afro Asian Diasporas’


A Blue Skies Conversation

Rujunko Pugh & Marie-Therese Png hold a conversation between their respective locations in Sydney, Australia and Oxford, UK about Afro-Asian perspectives, reflecting on this historic period of COVID-19 and BLM. They open with a discussion of their family histories as Afro-Asian diaspora and proceed to reflect on structural and institutional failings brought to global consciousness by COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd, and growing calls for Black-Asian solidarity – as well as historic legacies of solidarity. In this conversation, Rujunko and Marie-Therese recount their personal and geopolitical orientations regarding militarism, colonialism, and imperialism, and discuss together how they process confluences of political histories through practice – Rujunko through her critical artistic practice, and Marie-Therese through her work in technology policy/research/organising. Theories of multiplicity, and the Rujunko’s creation of an Afro-Asian code then shape how the discussants imagine futures informed by Afro-Asian identity, closing with a reflection on a collective question of what our intergenerational inheritance is.

Chapter 1

Afro-Asian Diaspora and Identity
00:00 Introduction and land acknowledgement
01:27 How we met
06:47 Rujunko self-introduction with personal photos
14:01 Marie Therese self-introduction with personal photos
27:06 Afro Asian connection and commonalities

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Chapter 2

Structural and Institutional Failings Revealed by Covid-19 and George Floyd
00:00 Structural and institutional racism in the US
04:02 Structural and institutional racism in the UK
16:41 Anti-Asian Xenophobia and anti-Blackness in Australia
23:47 Racial capitalism in the US and UK

Processing Through Practice Part I
27:28 Processing through Afro Asian Artistic practice
34:16 Late 19th century Institutionalised Anti-Asian discrimination in USA and Australia
43:19 Erasure of Black history Mary Seacole/Florence Nightingale

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Chapter 3

Militarism Colonialism Imperialism: Personal and Geopolitical
00:00 Rujunko’s personal relationship with militarism
01:06 White supremacy and racial capitalism in the US military
04:42 US military base in Okinawa and COVID-19
07:03 Japanese American veterans and post-1945 Modernism in Hawaii

Afro Asians Reflections on Calls for Black Asian Solidarity in Covid-19/BLM Times
10:12 Calls for Black Asian solidarity in COVID-19/BLM Times
11:36 Black/Asian police brutality
13:47 K-pop & Trump rally
16:35 Singapore race discussion
21:11 Black-China history/Afro-Asian geopolitics
23:18 Black/Asian civic movements under US imperialism
28:06 Anti-blackness in Asian community
30:58 Immigration Act of 1965 East Asian immigrants in US

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Chapter 4

What Can Our Experience Offer Catalytic Change within the Pandemic and BLM Movement?
00:00 Catalytic change through experience & decentring whiteness
01:37 Border-free paradox

Theories of Multiplicity
04:53 Theories of multiplicity
14:36 Mineral Constructs artwork – Rujunko

Processing Through Practice Part II
24:12 Processing through practice – Marie Therese
29:20 Politicisation of technology & scholar activism – Marie Therese

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Chapter 5

Afro Asian Code
02:30 Afro Asian Alphabet
04:59 Drawing from Stuart Hall’s model of encoding and coding
07:18 Racist dog whistling and US presidential campaigns
18:00 Afro Asian Alphabet – Mechanism of encoding/decoding

Imagining Futures Informed by Afro Asian Identity
21:22 Marie Therese
25:38 Rujunko

What is Our Intergenerational Inheritance?
36:16 Rujunko
37:37 Marie Therese
42:32 Thank you ICF!

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Rujunko Pugh was born in Japan in 1970 to a Japanese mother and African-American father. Raised in California and North Carolina, Rujunko has lived around the world in places including Hawaii, Washington D.C. and Sydney, Australia. Her practice is based on Gadigal land (Sydney, Australia). She initially studied molecular bioscience and bioengineering. Now, she works across various media including printmaking, installation, street art and murals. Her art draws on Japanese, African and African-American found imagery to explore themes such as identity, history, culture and race as well as global movements of people, ideas and technologies. She also investigates methods to dismantle generalized notions of race and identity, and to initiate discourse about oppressive stereotypes within dominant power structures. She has completed a Master of Fine Art from the University of Sydney, Sydney College of the Arts and has exhibited in Australia, the United States, Italy, New Zealand, Kenya and Spain.

Marie-Therese Png was born in London to a St Lucian mother and Chinese Singaporean father. She is currently a PhD candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute, researching AI governance and coloniality. She was previously Technology Advisor to the UN Secretary General’s Digital Cooperation Initiative, and co-authored Decolonial Theory as Socio-technical Foresight in Artificial Intelligence Research with DeepMind. Marie-Therese works in community organising with Radical AI, Black in AI, and is a co-organiser of the 2020 iteration of the Rhodes Must Fall Oxford movement. She completed an undergraduate in Human Sciences at Oxford and Masters in the cognition of racial prejudice at Harvard.

The Blue Skies Conversation Series is produced by International Curators Forum and made possible with support from Art Fund