Migration & Culture     Spring 2005    Prof Koptiuch    Arizona State University West    Phoenix, Arizona


Crossing the Valley

A Multimedia Ethnography Project


Project Instructions

DUE: Progress Report 4/27/05; Interview Project 5/4/05; Completed Web Pages 5/11/05

Class meets in the CLCC 170 lab on 4/27, 5/4, 5/11 to work on web pages.

This class project takes its inspiration and design from

Crossing the BLVD: Strangers, Neighbors, Aliens in a New America

by Warren Lehrer & Judith Sloan (2003). 

See their web page at  http://www.earsay.org/earsay/index.html

Author/artist Judith Sloan will speak with our class on 4/27—get your project going!!


As a model for our own collaborative project, we draw inspiration from the authors’ fascinating interviews with immigrants and refugees in Queens, NY, and their book’s exciting graphics and informative factual asides.  We take the metro Phoenix Valley as site of our study, an urban and transnational social landscape increasingly rich with “strangers, neighbors, aliens,” whose migration stories are every bit as intriguing as those Lehrer & Sloan encountered in Queens. Building from the interdisciplinary social science approaches and perspectives on im/migration patterns and processes that we’ve studied in our course, we will “document the signs of migratory life, normally hidden within the seemingly mundane, sometimes hideous urban landscape” of the Valley.  We look for migration stories “in the shadows between the superstores,” where we find the global has moved right in to our local communities. In conducting close-to-home expeditions, each student’s contribution of a case study will help to create a collaborative, synergistic whole that is more rich and complex than its separate parts!


Requirements.  This assignment is the equivalent of a research paper, but in exciting Web format. Research for this project should be based primarily on your own fieldwork observations and interview(s)—not library or Internet research.  As detailed below, each student’s contribution should include: a) an interview with a migrant (a legal or undocumented immigrant or a refugee), b) supplementary observational and factual materials or briefs, c) an analysis and interpretation of your case, in light of our course materials (including citation of at least five references from our course readings to support your analysis), and d) web pages with all of the above, which will be the centerpiece of your overall course web portfolio. You may find that you need 7-10 pages of text (double spaced), and several web pages, to cover all requirements.


A. Migrant Interview. (4-6 pp) Each student should interview one migrant who came to the US since 1965. It cannot be a member of our class!  This interview is the centerpiece of your project. Try to elicit answers to the questions that we brainstormed together in class—the actual questions you ask to arrive at these answers may vary, depending on your own interview situation. IMPORTANT: Because we want to foreground the migrant’s viewpoint, you will need to write up the interview as a first-person narrative. Rather than repeating your Q/A interview, change it into a story told by the migrant themselves (i.e. using “I” and “me” for the migrant). You can add explanatory asides.


1.     Describe your journey to the US from your home country (good ice-breaker question).

2.     Why did you migrate? Consider push/pull factors.  Important: probe beyond the ready answer, “in search of a better life”—unpack this phrase! Ask what do you mean? Why couldn’t you achieve this better life in your homeland?

3.     Who/what was your “bridge” to US? (see Sassen’s “Why Migration” on “bridges”)

4.     When did you migrate?  Try to historically situate them in relation to the past 35 years of intensive labor migration as part of global restructuring.

5.     How do you maintain contact with your homeland? (remittances, family links, visits, cultural practices, hometown association)

6.     How did you fit in/adjust to US?  What do you do here now (work, school, family)?

7.     Have you encountered misunderstandings by Americans of your cultural practices, beliefs, symbols? Any good example?

8.     Have you experienced discrimination here in the US, by majority population or by minorities? How did you feel?

9.     How did/do you deal with language barriers/bridges?

10.  What were your expectations before coming to the US?  Were these met?

11.  What have been the best and the worst of your experiences in your new homeland? (i.e. successes accomplished and problems faced)

12.  How does your homeland regard emigrants?

13.  How have you been changed by life in the US?

14.  Do you plan to return to your home country some day? Why or why not?

15.  Add any other issues or topics that emerge as important in your interview.


Obtain permission.  At the start of your interview, be sure to inform you interviewee(s) that you are doing this interview for your class project, and that the end results will be in the Internet.

·  IMPORTANT: Fill out a Talent Release Form agreement and sign it with your interviewee.

·  Do not agree to listen to secrets or off-the-record information—you do not need to know these to create a great story (and chances are very good they will tell you anyway!)

·  Protect your interviewee— preserve anonymity of migrants with sensitive immigration status; assign a pseudonym if requested; avoid giving incriminating information (whether about immigration status or anything else); be mindful of their privacy, safety, etc.


B. Required Supplementary Considerations.  As in Crossing the BLVD, let us take the interviewees’ words at face value—they tell us their truth as they lived it, back home, in America, and in between. But to enhance the story, you should offer the following supplementary materials and support. You may want to use side-bars, linked web pages, pop-ups, etc. for some of this info. Write this up before you create your web pages!


·  Short introduction by author—you! Explain how you met/know this person, arranged for interview(s); describe the setting in which your conversations took place, other people present, etc.  And feel free to interject asides elsewhere—just clarify who’s speaking.  Take your audience right into this scene with you!

·  First-person narrative/story—In order to give the viewpoint of the immigrant/refugee most directly, write their story from their viewpoint, based on your own interview notes. You do not need to record or quote their words verbatim, but avoid putting words in their mouths and avoid imposing your judgments upon their story.

·  Background—Supplement your interview with factual info relevant to your migrant, e.g. per capita income in migrant’s home country v US; percentage of US immigrants from your interviewee’s homeland; remittances migrants send to homeland; warfare, unemployment, national debt, economic restructuring; US immigration policy pertaining to your interviewee’s situation, etc

·  Current events–In Crossing the BLVD many migrants address the important impact of 9/11/01 on their lives. Other events may be more important for migrants to Arizona, such as the recent deaths of migrants in the desert crossing into our state, anti-immigrant sentiment & legislation (e.g. Prop 200), effects of US foreign policy on their homelands, border (in)security, etc. Include explanation of pertinent events in migrant’s story.

·  Audience response—remember that your audience brings/adds meaning to your presentation; give them some leeway to do so, e.g. pose questions (without giving answers) to the audience about the implications of your interview case for general migration issues; devise a “pop quiz” for your readers, etc.

·  Language use—Try to preserve unique language use by your interviewee—this does not mean you should emphasize any incorrect English, but rather pay attention to the particular uses of vocabulary that strike you as rich or complex, etc. Try some bilingual text—to give us a flavor of your interviewee’s native tongue.

·  Tell a good story!  Your written pieces should do more than just present factual information, and your interview should be more than just verbatim or paraphrased answers. Remember your audience—the worldwide web readers! Make the story hang together; tell it well!


C. Analysis, Interpretation, & Sources.  This should be about a two-page “brief.”


·      Analyze and interpret the story for your audience! Pause to reflect on what the migrant is telling you/us, interpret it for your audience in light of what you have learned from our interdisciplinary social science readings, discussions, fieldtrip, guest speakers, films this semester. You are the “expert” about your research! Ask yourself, how does the case you contribute to our collective project speak to, illustrate, or illuminate some of the key issues we’ve examined this semester (e.g. Does your interviewee fit the model of a “transmigrant”?  Why couldn’t your interviewee find that elusive “better life” in their homeland? What importance do remittances play in the migrant’s family/country? etc). Analyze your case by grounding your discussion in our study of migration concepts, patterns, and processes.


·      Sources/references—VERY IMPORTANT!! Incorporate into your analysis/interpretation a minimum of five different relevant references from our course readings, in addition to whatever other sources you cite. Give author(s) and title of reference in your text, not in footnotes (will make it easier on your web readers). Do more than just make passing mention of the author and title! You should tell us very succinctly what the overall article or book is about, as context for a point or quote you wish to use. Then, don’t forget to explain how you see the reading as relevant to your interview case study. Failure to incorporate 5 references harms grade!


D. Web page design.  Design a homepage for your project, which you will link to your web portfolio. Dr K will like these to a homepage for our collaborative Crossing the Valley project.  Give your interview project A TITLE, and link all the different pieces of your project to this page.  Include the following:


·  Photo of migrant, with signed Release Form—at least one good photo; you can borrow a digital camera from the library for your interview.  Note: if your interviewee does not wish to have a recognizable photo on the web, take a photo that hides their identity but represents who they are in some other way.

·  Map of migrant’s country of origin; try to pinpoint where they lived.

·  Re-map the migrant’s local neighborhood in the Valley with a map of the migrant’s homeland (as in Crossing the BLVD); mention the nearest major intersection so that we can pinpoint the area and hot-link it on our overall project map.

·  Migration objects—ask to photo an object/clothing/ritual whose meaning reminds them of homeland origins

·  Photo slices, close-ups, cutouts—use photos creatively, look for ideas in the book!

·  Links to Internet sites about the migrant’s homeland, relevant migration sites, etc.

·  Use tables to help organize your pieces; experiment with different size/type of font to draw attention, create emphasis; be sure to size your images in Photoshop Elements.

·  Don’t put everything on one web page—keep pages brief, it’s more effective to link multiple pages to your project homepage than to have one really long page.


Your Crossing the Valley project will be the centerpiece to your overall web portfolio for the course. You may find that you need about 7-10 pages of text (double spaced), and several web pages, to cover all the requirements.  Please type up your text in your word processor before you copy it to your web pages, so that you can make changes easily.  Any text that you wish Dr K to read and comment on should be submitted by May 4 at the latest.


ADDENDUM: For further considerations, a few more good ideas drawn from your Discussion Points about Crossing the BLVD.


More Interview Questions

1.     How do you perpetuate your heritage and cultural beliefs while living in a foreign country?  In what ways do you keep their cultural identity alive? How do you balance old/new culture?

2.     What are your aspirations as a first-generation migrant for your children?

3.     Do you associate with other migrants from your home town/region/country more than with Americans?

4.     What have been your experiences with other migrants from countries other than your own?

5.     Do you feel well integrated into American life?

6.     How did you get your first job here and what was it?

7.     Do you feel your voice as a migrant gets heard by the larger Valley community?

8.     What steps did you have to take to become a legal resident in this country? (if applicable)

9.     Are there any characteristics that made legalization/asylum difficult or impossible for you or your relatives? (e.g. political views, religion, sexual preference, communicable disease…)

10.  Any other interesting things you would like people to know about your culture?

11.  Humor—do you have any funny stories about your adjustment to the US?

12.  What strain does having to move from one country to another put on your family relationships?  What strategies do families use to prevent conflicts between family members?

13.  How do female and male migrants adjust to changes in gender roles in their new home? Do husbands accept the cultural change of the wife’s roles in the US?

14.  What direct impact did your education have on your language or job skills in America?

15.  Do you feel your life is “better” here than it was in your homeland? Happy? Productive? 

16.  After everything you’ve been through, was it worth coming to the US? Would you do anything differently?


Interview Strategies

·       You could interview several/a couple of individuals from the same family, to get a multi-generational viewpoint.

·       Or interview a couple of people and let them respond to their friends’/families’ interviews and add their own thoughts on what the others had said.

·       If you interview several people at once, e.g. at your workplace, also try to get at least one person to go more in-depth than the others.


More web page design ideas

·       Place on the web page: a picture of the migrant in traditional dress, the location of the native land on a map, an picture of object of significance of the migrant’s native land (like our own “family migration objects”).

·       Dr. K will put all the interviews on a map of the Valley using hot-links, to show how migrants from different cultures are functioning in the same, nearby, or distant surroundings. Make sure you mention the major cross streets of your story location (residence or workplace).


Go with your gut feelingslisten to your interviewee and follow up on interesting issues they raise that we may not have anticipated in all our questions above.  Be flexible and open. Pursue some questions in greater depth than others to get at richer insight.


Caution:  You can tape record your interview(s) if you wish.  But it is often very time consuming to transcribe the tape afterwards!  You usually can do just as well by taking notes during the interview, and then using your notes shortly thereafter to write up a more complete version of the interview—don’t wait too long, or you’ll forget all the interesting details and dialogue!

Go see our completed Crossing the Valley interviews!

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