PA 5490 (section 004), "Topics in Social History: Exploring Immigration Policy and the Immigrant Experience through Film", will be taught Spring 2010 by Professor Katherine Fennelly on Tuesdays 6:00-9:00 p.m. in Room 30 Humphrey Center.
Exploring Immigration Policy and the Immigrant Experience through Film
Professor Katherine Fennelly
Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs
Spring, 2010, 3 credits
Tuesdays, 6-9 pm, Room 30, Humphrey Center
We live in a time when images and messages disseminated through popular media dwarf other educational forums. Films that capture the public attention promote particular views of social issues and can inspire action and altruism or reinforce stereotypes and prejudices. In the words of cultural observer, Henry Giroux,
Films do more than entertain; they offer up subject positions, mobilize desires, influence us unconsciously and help to construct the landscape of American culture. Deeply imbricated within social and material relations of power, movies produce and incorporate ideologies that represent the outcome of struggles marked by the historical realities of power and the deep anxieties of the times...put simply, films both entertain and educate.
In this course film is used as a vehicle to explore the meanings of nationality, citizenship, and belonging, and the human impacts of government policies. This will be done through critical analyses of films, scholarly readings, and vigorous class discussions.
By the end of the course students will understand:
The history of constructions of immigrant 'legality' and 'illegality' in the United States and the EU
The human impact of public policies regarding immigrant status
Cross-national similarities and differences in immigration policies and the immigrant experience
During each class session we will view a film together and then have a discussion led by 2-3 students on the underlying context of migration, the immigrant experience, and how these are portrayed in the film. An extensive list of possible discussion questions is shown below. (Note that student-led discussions begin on February 2nd). Discussion leaders must have viewed the film before-hand. Other students will view the film for the first time in class.
FILMS TO VE VIEWED
Dirty, Pretty Things
The Emigrants I
The Emigrants II
So Far from India
God Grew Tired of Us
WHERE TO FIND FILMS: All class films are on reserve in Walter Library. Students can come to Walter to view films during building hours: http://www.lib.umn.edu/about/collections/scieng/hours. If you would like to own or rent the films, you should check the availability of new or used copies on the internet.
(Schedule of Readings and Class sessions available later)
FILM ANALYSIS QUESTIONS:
o How is the narrative point of view constructed: whose story is being told?
o How do the cinematic elements (beyond narrative point of view) such as visuals and music contribute to our sense of the characters, the drama, and the values that are presented?
o What's the historical period and political context? What has changed since then?
o What is the image of the "typical immigrant" in the film? Are immigrants portrayed as diverse individuals, or as indistinguishable? are they portrayed as victims? Heroes? Villains? Naifs? Exotic figures? Stereotypes?
o What about the "typical" non-immigrant?
o How is the inner world of the characters shaped by immigration or their roles as outsiders?
o What are the characteristics of the most 'assimilated' immigrants in the film?
o How is the American (or European) dream and American/European society depicted in the film? Are there challenges to the symbols of these societies?
o How do people cope or survive? How do immigrants construct/reconstruct their identities?
o How (if at all) is the homeland portrayed?
o How are cultural clashes presented?--with humor? Irony? Disdain? Despair?
o Is there a moral to the story? Are actions viewed as right or wrong, or nuanced?
o How are issues of race, racism and class treated in the film? What about gender roles and sexuality?
o How would you compare the portrayal of the immigrant experience in this and other films that we are discussing in the class?
Class Participation (20%): Attendance and active participation in discussions. On-time arrival is essential since we will begin viewing the week's film at the beginning of each session.
Web Journal (20%). By Saturday noon after each class post a journal entry (minimum one page) with your personal comments and reactions to the film and the readings for the previous class. These journal entries should help you write the short papers.
Discussion Leader (20%). Discussion leaders should view the assigned film prior to class and demonstrate a thorough command of the assigned readings and the ability to engage the class in a spirited conversation. In these sessions presenters will briefly (in 10 minutes) describe the national setting and relevant historical context (for example, the history of Turkish guest workers in Germany). They will then lead the class in a critical analysis of the selected film and its portrayal of the setting and the immigrant experience.
Short papers (40%): Two 5-page (double-spaced) reviews that contrast the immigrant experience in two films viewed in class. The analysis of the film should be placed within the historical and political context and