This week's reading dealt with the rise of art-based activism, particularly street art that represents the struggle of a minority group. The message of street art, oftentimes in itself a subversive act against authority, is compounded when it deals with complex topics like police brutality, racial discrimination, and gentrification. These topics overwhelming affect minority groups, who are often lacking the support system to change these circumstances. In addition to being without a support system, the platform for these issues to made public, usually media coverage, is hard to come by. Thus, public spaces become a modern-day, silent forum of sorts, where the strife of the oppressed group is expressed in art. The clandestine nature of street art allows it to persist and grow as more people add their own "opinions" to the mix, creating a collaborative piece about a shared struggle. The unity found in the creation of street art activism is incredible. The public nature of the work spreads the message in an efficient and arresting manner.
How do immigrant perspectives emerge in German cinema? What differences can be seen between German-produced media in comparison to that produced by the demographic in question? How is the concept of "othering" furthered or diminished through these films?
Recently, there's been more and more attention given to representation of minority groups in various kinds of media. From gender diversity, to LGBTQ+ visibility, and racial diversity. My own interest in this topic, as a person who lives in multiple minority intersections, comes from my own life experience. However, this passion became more academic in nature after I took Clare Bright's class "Comparative Ideologies of Human Rights Movements," which examined the feminist, queer, and civil rights movements. I thought again that I could bring this interest to our study abroad research by focusing on representation of immigrants in German film. As part of this study, I would delve into the differences in representations of immigrants in films produced by the larger German film industry compared to those that come out of the immigrant community. Do the potential differences or similarities between these different origins further the concept of "othering," and furthering the separation between immigrants and naturalized Germans? As a subset of these questions, it would be amazing if I could somehow look into audience reception of the films of these different origins. perhaps through box office figures, reviews, and even interviews with the audience members themselves.
For some preliminary sources, I have been looking at the Goethe-Institut, which has a wonderful database of "Multiculturalism in German Cinema" in their subset of studies on Migration and Integration. In addition to showcasing the works of immigrant directors, the Goethe-Institut provides the names of several journalists that I hope to contact for some first-person interviews. There is also a hub of research into European and German cinema accessible through the European Cultural Foundation, online at ECFlabs.org. I also view this as a potential resource for first-person interviews.
This week we were tasked with two tasks of observation: an interview and a reflective activity, both of which were intended to prepare us for data collection while studying abroad. For the interview portion, myself and Natalie Hillerson strolled through the Quad on a sunny Saturday afternoon and talked to a girl lying in the grass and reading a book. It was a great way to ease into an interviewing process--we used the buddy system, and she was sitting alone and easily approachable. We prompted her with a question: if you were abroad in Germany, and a local asked you about minority issues in the United States, what would you speak about? She talked about the historical and institutional roots of racism in our country, from slavery to legal codes. The most pressing issue, she felt, immigration policy. When asked about the path forward, or how we, as students, could affect change, she stressed education and investment in communities. What was most important is that an unburdened dialogue be opened up, so that these issues may be discussed clearly. She was very well-spoken for being put on the spot like that, and answered our follow up questions clearly and thoroughly. I was surprised at the ease of the interview process once the ball got rolling. Either we got lucky, or I'm just expecting the worst.
For my own observation, I sat on the balcony outside my work lab in the Health Sciences Building. It was a sunny afternoon, although I felt a chill in the air while sitting in the shade. I was facing Pacific Street, looking over the construction of some out buildings in front of Magnusson. I heard the bark of orders from the worksite, the clanking of power tools, and the rumble of construction machinery, both from in front of me and down the street, where Foege is also undergoing a revamp. The chattering of students crossing the overpass to the biology labs in Hitchcock and the wheezing of old metro busses stopping in front of Health Sciences broke up the sounds of work. The air smelled like gasoline, and bits of poplar fluff were blowing through the wind. My peaceful reflection on the balcony was interrupted by an enterprising spider trying to make a home on my coworkers bike.
As for the pieces on gentrification this week, I feel as though this is a narrative that we have heard many times before. From the news to TV shows, the topic of "moneyed takeover" is often broached. In my own experience, I have already lived in heavily gentrified areas for most of my life and thus have not seen the forces really in action. However, for the last 10 years, I have lived in Shoreline, WA, which is bisected by Route 99, or Aurora Avenue. In the last few years, a major clean up effort has been underway, as more high rises pop up along the Ave while motels get torn down. It has seen the opening of both a Whole Foods and a PCC in areas that were previously the domain of Jack-in-the-Box alone. Aurora and it's businesses are attempting to cater to a different set of people entirely, and in doing so, harms it's current occupants. While I'm sure Route 99 won't lose it's reputation, I think that In the years to come, it will be a very different experience and garner a very different reaction to live by Aurora Avenue.
When I first applied to study in Berlin, I mentioned that one of my main reasons behind choosing this program was my own experience as an immigrant and how that has impacted how I identify myself in different settings. From this personal standpoint, and further motivated by the knowledge gained through our readings, I would like to do research surrounding the immigrant children in the education system. It would be fascinating to see whether being the minority in a school setting pushes children towards assimilation or creates the need for them to identify differently based on the setting. I suppose this topic falls under Identity and Environment, but with the focus on the scholastic setting, there is also an element of education to be considered. That being said, I would like to focus on the immigrant experience rather than the policy that potentially results in these experiences.
There are a few readings that particularly drew me on to this track, most notably Norton's vignettes of the immigrant experience. For example, most directly related to Identity and Environment is Martina, who adopts a maternal sort of identity at work to gain some sort of authority with other employees. More related to education is the contextual understanding of the short story discussed in the South African classroom. How would the children of immigrants relate to and interpret their curriculum? Are schools unwittingly policing the identities of these kids and forcing assimilation? These are questions I'd like to address through my research as well.
This weeks reading mentioned the "look" involved in national identity. Minority groups are constantly asked to validate and question their national identities because they don't appear similar to the rest of the population. I think in the United States we are spoiled with a considerable heterogenous society; that doesn't stop people from asking "where are you really from?" The idea that a different appearance precludes membership to a national identity is something I think would particularly affect the children of immigrants, 2nd or 3rd generation kids. In that demographic, there is a distinct separation between cultural background and the environment, and it would be interesting to see how that either fractures an identity, or forces an individual into difficult choices.