Note: I’m not really sure what to write here. Anyway, here are some of my pre-trip thoughts. I condensed them, though it’s probably hard to tell.
I am really excited. I am thinking about how we could structure our documentary in a way that would incorporate our research question and a demonstration of how BorderLinks helped shape our research/ our approach to the question. We could simply show the process, beginning with the question and moving forward with the week and then our findings the conclusion. That way we can conclude the footage of the trip and the fact-finding process and then we can parallel that with our actual findings and then conclude our actual research question. That is probably the most logical way to structure the documentary… and we that can always change.
I am thinking also about Sewon’s ideas about studying the media representation (or lack of representation) of women crossing the border (or illegal female immigrants in America) and how it affects their self-representation. Also how women express their feelings (that have been affected by the border, by their movement away from their first home, by their encounters with new cultures, good and bad) and how the experience of crossing the border affects women. I think this is all interesting, and it looks like the itinerary that we have right now will give us many opportunities to talk to female artists and organizers. I also think it would be interesting to look at how women’s interaction with macho culture is affected by crossing the border. Or maybe how the macho aspect of Latino culture is affected (strengthened or weakened or changed?) by the border crossings and meetings. That question is less focused on women and more focused on gender issues in general. Something about women with children crossing the border would be interesting too, since when most people think of “undocumented immigrants” they think of “illegal immigrants” and then of criminals or day laborers or something- this is an image of men! What about the women? There are definitely women who are trying to come into the US for better lives for their children, where is their story, and why isn’t their image represented in the stereotype?
I think Sewon and I will have an easy time thinking up many things that we are interested in, but I am curious and a little unsure to how we can focus our question to do the best research when we are actually on the border. I know that when doing interviews and such you react to what the interviewee is saying, and if people have a lot to say, or surprising things to say, about a certain thing, our research might go in a different direction. Still I feel like we need to have a more focused place to start and we (especially me) are so broadly interested in these topics it will be interesting to see how we end up narrowing it all down.
Today we met with Troy Davis at the media center and he was really helpful! We’re going to hopefully meet with him next week also to try out the equipment and the editing software… this way, when we take footage on the trip, we’ll have an idea of our editing capabilities. He showed us the camera (it’s so small!) and suggested we take a wireless mic and a shotgun mic, along with a tripod, probably. He explained that the camera uses one hour DV tapes. Sewon and I have started to think about how many we will need, since we definitely don’t want too few. Looking at the itinerary will likely help us figure that out, since some days might have less than interests us than others. We decided to prepare interview questions for the next meeting so we can start thinking about what exactly we want to ask the people we meet on the trip. Of course once we start interviewing people, their answers will lead us into questions we could not have anticipated, but I think it’s a good idea to have a starting point- some questions we know we want to ask, or information we know we would like to find out. Also we’re going to research interview release forms.
Sewon and I just checked out the camera that we will be using for the trip and shot some footage. We bought a couple DV tapes and will try out the editing software on Thursday. We also thought about trying to reserve a camera for the meeting on Tuesday so we could tape people’s expectations and motivations for the trip. I think that would be a good way to show the process of BorderLinks, and how our perceptions change.
Today I picked up the video camera so that we can record our discussion tomorrow. If anyone is willing to stay a little bit after the meeting, we thought up some questions:
-Are you excited about the spring break trip to the border?
-What drew you to decide to go to the border?
-What are your expectations of the physical U.S./Mexico border? (Do you think it will be dangerous?)
-What do you hope to gain out of your experience through BorderLinks?
I just got back from our meeting. It was very helpful. We talked about the itinerary a bit more, the budget, and everyone’s different projects. It was really helpful to hear feedback on our project. We have been working out the logistics and learning about the camera, but we have been a little bit lost in our thinking about research questions, though we have been thinking about it. Professor Tandeciarz and Professor Bickham-Mendez helped synthesize what I think Sewon and I were aiming at with our most recent questions. Our documentary could focus on why and how William and Mary is connecting with the border, and how the process changes the group, our relationship with the border, and our relationship with our own community in Williamsburg. Professor Tandeciarz had the great idea of taping our community screening of the film, and then incorporating that into the film, which is an idea that I love. We talked about how personal transformation is the basis of social/political change. I still think Sewon and I need to think this over more and talk it out more, because there are still some things I’m a little fuzzy on. If our research is on the dialogue between the William and Mary students and the border, are we ourselves going to have many direct questions for people at the border or will we mostly be recording the others’ interviews? Or should we maybe try to figure out how we are received and how people at Tucson/Nogales connect with us (since we are trying to connect with them). For example, why they want to meet with us, why they think it’s important not just to do what they are doing but to educate people like us about it.
Professor Bickham-Mendez had some good feedback for our release form and we’re going to meet on Friday to talk more about the project.
Ideas for interviews/footage in Williamsburg: next meeting, Chuck showing maps, interview individual students or working groups of students about what the border means to them/why they are interested, Lilli, Geoff Fiess (what are your concerns), Professors Tandeciarz and Bickham-Mendez, people in the community (probably better around the time we screen it or after we screen it). Not in Williamsburg but: Gary Adler, PhD Cand., from the Sociology Department at the University of Arizona- since he’s surveying us, it would be great if we could interview him…
I read Enrique’s Journey. It was gut-wrenching. It was awful, the things that people have to go through, and I thought it was especially awful how familial ties were broken. Enrique wanted to be with his mother so badly that he risked his life many times, and then he reached her, and he couldn’t even enjoy the experience because he was undocumented, he was in a new, different country and community, where his mom had been there for years while he hadn’t, and things were just entirely different from what he expected. After all these experiences, even a mother and son can’t just pick up where they left off. What I got out of the book was a look at the human rights issues and also at the community ties that are hurt by this desperate immigration. This was also shown in Crossing Arizona, when they showed the ranchers who were upset by immigrants on their property. This hurts the community on both sides of the border. The community here in the US that might have been inclusive and sympathetic to immigrants is now hostile. Cartas del otra lado showed how the lack of infrastructure in Mexico was a great problem, since the women left behind who were trying to make their own living had trouble with gas lines, getting government officials to pay attention to the real problems, etc. It also showed the problem of disintegrating community ties with the men in the US who turn to drugs or other women when they are disconnected with their families- they need to feel community connection somewhere, so they find a way- but it destroys what is left of the ties they came to America to defend.
I am concerned because I am still not sure what questions we are going to ask people on the border. I feel like we are still shaky on our research question, and every time we talk about it I feel like we solidify it more in regards to what is our community’s connection to the border? But what are we researching actually on the border? I thought we originally wanted to know how different groups define/perceive the border. Perhaps we want to know what they think our community (Williamsburg, William and Mary, college kids, Latino communities in the US, non-Latino communities in the us, etc) should know about the border?
I feel better after our meeting. I understand now that our question about how our community connects with the border will manifest itself in how our individual research projects pan out and how we interact with the border. We will be following others when they ask questions, or asking questions of people we interact with, not so much creating new questions. It’s all about how the border manifests itself in our own community, why we care about the border, and how that effects the way we interact with the border when we’re there- our strategies, how we react and talk with people. I have calmed down a bit. I realize that our focus should be on figuring out what to film and who to follow- where to focus the camera. I think that we will be able to do this pretty well because there are two of us and one can film and the other can take notes for future reference when editing and stuff- about what was going on- and also to keep an eye out for other things we want to get footage of- because maybe we’ll be taping something but actually there will be something else going on elsewhere that is more important.
We should consider talking with Drew Stelljes when we get back, to talk to him about the decision to cancel the service trip(s?) to Mexico.