Lights, Camera, Immigration! An Examination of Global Cities Through Film

by Erin Breault
"They were both lost in cities that would not pause even to shrug." 1


Picture this unforgettable scene from the 1983 film El Norte. Enrique and Rosa, a brother and sister, from Guatemala have just undergone a hellish journey that included crawling for miles on their hands and knees and being bitten by swarming rats through abandoned sewer tunnels in order to cross the border from Tijuana, Mexico to the United States. As they emerge — frightened, grimy, bitten and exhausted — they catch sight of the lights of a big city. Their "coyote" notices their wonder and says, "That's San Diego. Pretty isn't it. From here it is easy. Tomorrow we'll be in L.A." 2 One can't help but be swept along and hope that their dreams of a better, fulfilling life in "The North" will come true. However, the reality for immigrants seeking work and ultimately a home in the global north is simultaneously thrilling, difficult, varied and complex.

To get a better understanding of this timely and important subject, students will examine the economic, social and political characteristics of migration and globalization through the lens of the late 20 th and early 21 st century "global city". The global city is a concept developed by urban geographers and sociologists that views globalization, processes of dense internationally woven political, economic and cultural connections, being created, facilitated and enacted in specific geographic locales. These global cities control a disproportionate amount of business, finance and trade around the world. 3 In this unit students will use film to examine how globalization involves the circulation of goods, people, labor and ideas. Employing a comparative approach of two global cities, London, and Los Angeles, students will utilize film excerpts about the experience of immigrants and migrants as a vehicle for analysis of the concept of global cities. The film sources will include the above-mentioned El Norte as well as the television situation comedy, Modern Family for L.A. For the global city of London, students will analyze the film Dirty Pretty Things and the BBC drama, Call the Midwife. Of course, teachers may choose other films depending on school district criteria for film ratings, taste and availability. Suggestions are listed in the annotated bibliography.

These fiction film and television sources portray encounters for immigrants, migrants and the receiving population that involve struggle, conflict, cooperation and collaboration in a specific urban or metropolitan geographic space. Students will examine these encounters with particular attention to change over time with respect to the processes of industrialization, deindustrialization and the more recent shift to a service economy.

Students will consider different perspectives on immigration evident among the four media sources in two ways. First, students will examine how immigrants are portrayed in the films. Second, they will also consider to what extent Hollywood's role as mythmaker for the American dream had the effect of motivating people to immigrate to the United States. This is especially interesting considering the global reach and widespread consumption of American-produced blockbuster film.

The unit will be taught at Pittsburgh's Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) 6-12 to Grade 10 students in AP World History. It can be incorporated into, and is aligned with, the AP World History curriculum's final unit, "Accelerating Global Change and Realignments, c. 1900 to the Present". Essential questions for AP World History include: What are the economic, social, and political characteristics of globalization? Does 20 th century globalization represent a new phenomenon in world history? In what ways does popular culture (art, film, sport) reflect the major political, economic, and social issues of the time period? This unit will take approximately two weeks to complete.

CAPA is a Pittsburgh public school that offers a comprehensive academic program rooted in an arts education. Its mission is to encourage excellence and success as students develop as artists and cultural leaders. Students choose intensive artistic instruction in dance, instrumental music, literary arts, piano, production technology, theatre arts, visual art, and vocal music. The faculty includes active professionals in the creative and performing arts, multitalented academic instructors, and visiting artists in residence. The school's student population is approximately 57% white, 32% black, and 12% other (including mixed race, Asian and Hispanic). The student body is 68% female and 32% male with 38% of the students receiving free/reduced lunch. This unit's design expressly taps into student interest and passion for art and culture through the use of film.


The unit will utilize fictional film and contemporary television show excerpts about the experience of immigrants and migrants as a vehicle for analysis of the global city concept. Students will examine the films' portrayal of who the immigrants are in London and Los Angeles, why immigrants migrated, where immigrants live in these global cities, how their labor is utilized, and the varying experience of immigrants depending on race, class, gender and nationality. In addition to film analysis, students will augment their study with primary source oral histories, maps, photos and secondary source analyses of both film theory, urban history, and the history of immigration and migration to these global cities. Students will develop skills in reading and comprehending scholarly secondary sources and analyzing a variety of primary documents. This unit aims to aid students in interpreting and forming arguments around these sources so they personally connect with globalization's impact on immigration/migration. The culminating project enables students to further incorporate sources into their own historical arguments, thereby moving away from such traditional positions around immigration as: we are all immigrants in a nation of immigrants, immigration is a "problem", the unexamined belief in the promise of equal opportunity, and the inevitability of cultural assimilation, to positions reflecting a deeper appreciation of how global capitalism has shaped the varying experiences of immigrants and the receiving population in the global city.

AP World History teachers should note that this unit is useful in satisfying the particular requirements of the course. In fact, the film analysis of immigration and migration to L.A. and London outlined here will serve as a focused case study enabling students to develop historical understanding and to conceive arguments that will come out of delving into each city's unique history and national and imperial pasts. Students will then be able to compare and contrast the histories of global migration to L.A. and London and see connecting threads of the continuity and change over time in world history. In addition, themes such as development and interaction of cultures, (i.e. encounters between immigrants and the receiving population) the development of economic systems, (industrialization, deindustrialization, and the recent shift to a service economy) globalizing, (the global assembly line) and networks of communication and exchange (i.e. film as communicator of ideas) are clearly addressed. Finally, Social Studies Common Core and Pennsylvania Core Standards 8.5.11-12G in which students "integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g. visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem" 4 especially applies due to the focus on visual sources in this unit.


This unit will serve to open discussion of what globalization is and how globalization impacts students' lives. Everything from the clothing they wear, foods they eat, the growing diversity of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods, to the future job market as well as recent current events is connected to globalization. Students will be encouraged to think about how cities, the crossroads and the meeting points for human societies, are the sites of crucial processes of production, interaction and consumption, the key features of globalization. Cities are not static entities, however. Some cities have risen and fallen in importance over time. Pittsburgh, of course, is a prime example of this process of ebb and flow in globalization. My students are well aware of the migrants that came from all over the world to work in heavy manufacturing in Pittsburgh, during its heyday in the late 19 th and 20 th centuries. The ancestors of my students were immigrants from Germany, Serbia, Croatia, Poland, Italy and Greece, as well as African Americans from the Great Migration who labored in iron and glass factories (PPG), in food processing (H.J. Heinz), and in the aluminum (ALCOA) and steel mills (U.S. Steel). Then, in the early 1980's, Pittsburgh experienced the wrenching effects of deindustrialization when all but one of the steel mills closed. 5

At what stage is Pittsburgh in this process of globalization? Students know that Pittsburgh is now an "Eds and Meds" town with the city's economy dominated by University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), and the universities, particularly the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. In other words, Pittsburgh is squarely located in the most recent phase of globalization, where the economy is focused on high tech, science, medicine and services. 6 Students will be encouraged to consider the extent to which this recent shift in Pittsburgh's economy has affected immigration and migration to Pittsburgh.

Another point of connection for students to globalization is recent news of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America crossing into the U.S. through Mexico. The fact that these immigrants are young people should particularly resonate with them. Indeed El Norte's two main characters, two teenage immigrants from Guatemala, represent a prior wave of U.S.-bound immigrants from Central America that occurred 30 years ago. Why did they come in the 1980's? Why are they coming now? What are the conditions in their home countries? Are these conditions different from those in the 1980's? What is the response of the U.S.? Are these new arrivals part of a continuing pattern of human migration in the western hemisphere? How can globalization be understood in historical, economic, political and social terms? Clearly, the current debate in American society on immigration will serve as a catalyst for discussion.

Film analysis was chosen as the vehicle or "way in" for student examination of globalization for several reasons. First, the study of film can provide students with significant insight into areas of society of a different time and place that might otherwise be difficult to access. Second, film has the ability to move people. It is a powerful medium in global terms, rapidly circulating ideas that are consumed around the world. Students will determine the ways in which fiction films articulate, identify and express the everyday life of immigrants and the receiving populations portrayed in the global cities of L.A. and London. They will also examine the ideas and prejudices of a particular time and place such as those communicated by the filmmakers. 7This focus on bottom up social history and cultural history will fit particularly well with student interest in popular culture.

Historical Background

Students will begin their study of contemporary globalization by discussing what the term "globalization" means. During the twentieth century, globalization involved an increasingly dense web of political relationships, economic transactions and cultural influences that cut across the world's peoples, countries, and regions, binding them more tightly together, but also more contentiously. 8 While the term globalization may be new, the process was not. Students will be reminded of their earlier study of previous historical periods of "globalization" including the Arab, Mongol, Russian, Chinese, and Ottoman empires; trade routes such as the Silk Road, Indian Ocean and trans-Saharan; the spread of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam which had long linked Eastern hemisphere societies with new rulers, religions, products, diseases and technologies. They will no doubt remember that in the centuries after 1500, European maritime voyages and colonizing efforts launched the Columbian exchange, incorporating the Western hemisphere and inner Africa firmly and permanently into, what many historians argue, was the first genuinely global network of communication, exchange and often exploitation . Furthermore, during the nineteenth century, as the Industrial Revolution took hold and Western nations such as Britain and France began a new round of empire building in Asia and Africa, the global network tightened even more and its role as a catalyst for social and cultural change only increased. In fact, at its height Britain's was the largest empire in history and ruled 1/5 of the world's population. It was the foremost global power for over a century, resulting in a political, cultural, linguistic and legal legacy that was widespread. 9 Britain's legacy included imperial circuits of goods, ideas and people that set up post WWII migration of people from former colonies, such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Jamaica that students will see in their film analysis.

Interestingly, given the rapid recent transformation of the world's economy, the decades between the World Wars witnessed a deep contraction of global linkages with international trade, investment and labor migration dropping sharply as major states turned inward, favoring high tariffs and economic autonomy in the face of capitalist economic collapse. The post World War II period saw capitalist victor nations working to avoid this by entering into a set of agreements and institutions including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) forged during the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference. This agreement laid the foundation for post war globalization in which rules were negotiated for commercial and financial dealings among capitalist countries while promoting relatively free trade, stable currency linked to the U.S. dollar and high levels of capitalist investment. 10 Another factor in post-war economic globalization was technology that increased the circulation and exchange of goods, people and information. For instance, containerized shipping, huge oil tankers, and air express services lowered transportation costs while fiber-optic cable and the internet provided communication infrastructure for global economic interaction. Population growth in postcolonial, developing nations helped fuel globalization as they entered the global economy. Commodities traded included agricultural cash crops like coffee grown in Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua and natural resources in the form of oil from Nigeria and minerals such as copper, gold, and bauxite mined in Chile, Peru, and Mexico and Jamaica. Historian Alfred Crosby points out that these nations in the global south are "stuck with the dead-end job of supplying the First World with raw materials, want to industrialize but are starting late with very large populations, already weary ecosystems…" 11 This industrialization gap and structural problems in agriculture as well as unequal standards of living between the global north and south creates the economic climate in which people were pushed to emigrate. 12

A further iteration of globalization, neo-liberalism, appeared on the world stage in the 1970's. This period saw the U.S. and Great Britain abandoning earlier political controls on economic activities as political and business leaders increasingly saw the world as a single market. Neo-liberals favored reduced tariffs, free global movement of capital, a mobile and temporary workforce, privatization of state-wide industries, curtailing of government efforts to regulate the economy as well as tax and spending cuts. Neo-liberal policies also favored the private ownership and consolidation of land, which resulted in displacing peasant farmers. 13 This displacement of people was augmented by U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War and more recently in the War on Drugs. All these factors fueled Central American and Mexican immigration to the United States. They form a central theme in one of the films students will analyze. 14

The collapse of the state-controlled communist world at the end of the twentieth century further propelled unrestricted global capitalism. As Jeffrey Frieden states in Global Capitalism, "capitalism was global, and the globe was capitalist". 15 Some concrete examples of the reach of global capitalism, with which students are familiar, include such well-known transnational corporations (TNC's) as Mattel, Royal Dutch Shell, Sony and General Motors. Indeed, by 2000, 51% of the world's largest economic units were TNC's and not countries! 16

In such a permissive economic climate these companies moved plants from country to country in search of lower labor costs and the least restrictive environmental regulations. Discussion of the labor needs of TNC's leads to the heart of this curriculum unit. For accompanying the movement of goods and capital in the globalizing world were new patterns of human migration, driven by war, poverty, revolution and the end of empire. An example includes Jews fleeing Europe to Israel in1948, which in turn generated the displacement of Palestinians.

Since the 1960's however, a significant pattern of global migration has featured the movement of people from developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America to industrialized Europe and North America. For example, Pakistanis, Indians, and West Indians went to Great Britain; Algerians and West Africans to France; Turks, and Kurds went to Germany; Filipinos, Koreans, Cubans, Mexicans and Haitians to the U.S.A. The majority of these are labor migrants, who have moved with few skills to escape poverty that resulted from the distorted economies left over from colonialism. Furthermore, British Commonwealth citizens had been encouraged to come to Britain to meet shortages of unskilled labor in several industries in the 1950's. Saskia Sassen in her book The Global City notes that almost half of Afro-Caribbean and Asian entrants settled in London, with the rest settling in other major cities. By 1981, their share of the population rose to 14.6% from 5% in 1971. 17

In the U.S., the 1965 Immigration Act abolished the National Origins program, limiting immigration to 120,000 per year from the Western Hemisphere and 170,000 in the Eastern hemisphere after 1976, 20,000 from any one country. An unintended result of this Act was that it spurred increased immigration due to family reunification preferences from previously restricted nations. Other migrants are refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba, and Haiti fleeing violence and oppression that occurred in the fall-out of U.S. involvement in Cold War geopolitical conflicts. 18 Indeed, it is clear that these population movements are not random or did not occur by accident, but are part of earlier political, economic and historical processes and represent an important thread of continuity in world history. These postcolonial migrations of former colonial "subjects" to their "mother" countries will be evident as students analyze the films under consideration.

Between 1971 and 2000, 20 million migrated to the U.S. legally, with millions more arriving illegally. This categorization of "unauthorized migrants" will prove to be a major theme of the fiction films studied. It is estimated that there were 11.1 million in 2005, up from around 2.5 million in 1990. Unauthorized migrants comprise 30% of all immigrants in 2005 with Mexico contributing 60%, by far the largest group. The next largest group is from El Salvador, barely 1/10 as large. 19 Once in the U.S., migrants provide manual labor in the fields, factories and homes of the well-to-do. Typically, these migrant laborers earn higher wages in the U.S. than in their home countries but face higher living costs in food, housing and transportation. Even so, they will send money back to their families, representing Mexico's largest source of foreign exchange.

Another important concept that will be explored in the films is that of the "border". Borders are not simply a territorial filter, but define political citizenship in the nation state. Indeed, "the exclusion of migrants helps define the privileges and the limitations of citizenship, and close attention to the border (physical and metaphorical) reveals much about how we make sense of ourselves. 20 A further aspect of the border, considered by scholars such as Alexandra Hall, is the use of detention centers by the U.K. and the U.S. She describes detention centers as the border "stretched". They serve as spaces where people live, are confined, selected and displaced. Detention centers aim to create distance from "others" who threaten the desired social order. They hold immigrants who overstay visas, are waiting for asylum adjudication, or who have arrived without documentation. In the U.K. in 2011, 2,419 people were held in immigration detention. The U.S. held 230,000 in the same year. 21 While the films in this unit do not actually show detention centers, students will certainly have recently viewed images of Central American children being held in Texas and Arizona, sleeping on hastily arranged rows of cots.

Other historians have analyzed the solidification of the border between the U.S. and Mexico as the result of historical processes including the racializing of immigration. George Sanchez notes the creation of the modern version of the border during the first three decades of the twentieth century. Sanchez says of the border, "It became a much more rigid line of demarcation, as the intricate economic relationship between Mexican labor and American capital was perpetuated through the labor recruitment agents." 22 Mae Ngai argues that between 1925 and 1965,

" a process…reconstructed the 'lower races of Europe' into white ethnic Americans….Mexicans, walking across the border emerged as the quintessential act of illegal immigration. The method of Mexican's illegal entry could thus be perceived as "criminal" and…Combined with the construction of Mexicans as migratory agricultural laborers…that perception gave powerful sway to the notion that Mexicans had no rightful presence on United States territory, no rightful claim of belonging." 23

Students will view portrayals of the "border" and the rituals that accompany immigrants crossing the border. People present passports, apply for visas, submit to security checks, offer biometrics, all of which are rituals that "materialize" the authority of the security state. 24

For students, it may come as a surprise that the U.S. is not unique in drawing migrants. This unit will encourage inquiry and discussion about the extent of immigration around the world. For instance, the U.S. was the focus of world migration in the 19 th and 20 th centuries, drawing 70% of European migration and more recently 27 million arrived between 1950 and 2001. However, the U.S. is not the only "immigrant nation". It ranks low at 12 percent of total population that is foreign-born. This is much less than the Middle East nations, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Kazakhstan. In fact, at its highest, in 1910 with 14.7%, this is still lower than Argentina at 33% and Canada at 22%. In addition, there has been an increase in female migrants so that they outnumbered males by the 1980's as a result of increasing family reunification and labor migration. 25 The number and diversity of immigrants to L.A. and London featured in the films will help to make this phenomenon of world immigration more concrete for students.

Finally, the films will be windows on the beliefs that people have about immigration. What does the presence of migrants from the global south represent for the receiving countries of the global north? Has there been cultural and political conflict as a result of this relatively recent reversed direction of immigration in the late 20 th century? Are there differences between the U.S. and European view of immigration? Does the pluralist tradition accommodating hyphenated identities distinguish the U.S. from Europe who embraces full cultural assimilation? 26 All of these questions will be highlighted and considered by students as they study the films.

Once students have reviewed the basic outlines of globalization and changes in migration patterns, they will be encouraged to consider and to reflect on how these themes of unauthorized immigration, the dual labor market, the border, and gender differences are portrayed in the course material.

Film/TV Background

The main lens through which students will explore globalization and immigration is fiction film. The films in this unit are deliberately chosen to expose students to a perspective that challenges the traditional view of immigration history to which students have been exposed such as in the Pittsburgh Public School 9 th grade Civics curriculum. This view is also the foundation of Hollywood film representations of immigration history: the view that delineates a linear progression toward fulfilling the American dream of upward social mobility. Blockbuster films like West Side Story, The Godfather, Gangs of New York, and Titanic are examples of this perspective. Indeed, in order to make this point about the linear view of immigration concrete, students will view clips of these films and will have them in mind as they analyze El Norte and Dirty Pretty Things.

Students will read a chapter of Eric Avila's book, Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight. It examines the history of popular culture films produced about one of the global cities, L.A. In this book, students will discover how popular culture films typically depicted African Americans, Chinese, and Mexicans as the racial "other"— symbolizing moral danger to white males who dared to step out of their safe, white suburban homes into the postwar "noir" city 27 This cultural portrayal occurred in the context of spatial segregation of whites into white suburbs and other groups to reservations of inner-city, racialized poverty. This process occurred first in suburban southern California, and somewhat later in London. 28 Avila contends that white Americans preferred a landscape that epitomized homogeneity and predictability. This space was in contrast to heterosocial, unpredictable and often dangerous cultural experiences of industrial urbanism. It is these values that underlay the new spatial culture of suburbia: enclosed theme parks that directed the movement and gaze of its public; self-contained housing subdivisions planned in disciplined grid systems; and freeways that channeled the flow of traffic along a uniform line of movement above and beyond the inner city. 29 Interestingly, L.A.'s later development compared to that of older cities such as New York and Chicago, accommodated the automobile and allowed for this increased physical separation and isolation. This is strikingly evident in El Norte, in the scene of Rosa and Nacha discussing the lack of Anglos in the neighborhood. Rosa sees only Spanish signs, Latin American people and "no gringos". Nacha replies "Lord! You don't think Gringo want to live with Mexicans do you? They've gone to their own nice suburbs". 30

Do these broad-stroke characterizations of post World War II urban spatial development in the latest stage of post-industrial globalization apply to other global cities? To address this, students will be introduced to the insights of Saskia Sassen's The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo. She views the global city as both the site of and the context for the globalization process. These processes include industrialization, deindustrialization and postindustrialization. Sassen examines social "forms" or class and the spatial organization of cities that resulted from these changes in global capitalism. For instance, Sassen points out the shift from post World War II social structures that were characterized by an expansion of the middle class, formal labor markets that offered advancement, job security, fringe benefits and greater levels of unionization to modern social forms. These modern social forms are small scale, and less standardized with casual employment that accompanied the decline in heavy manufacturing and the move to a service economy.

Sassen notes that the spatial organization of global cities, such as New York and London, has changed. New land uses developed and became gentrified. High-income residential and commercial development occurred as these cities became the receiving sites of some of the most expensive, high-tech, specialized labor on the globe. Alongside this high-end development that housed bankers, financiers and medical professionals, grew spatially concentrated housing and spaces of poverty and physical decay. Eventually the inner cities of London, New York, and Los Angeles received post war immigration from Asia, Caribbean and Latin America. 31

Nancy Abelmann details this transformation for L.A. in Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots, noting that LA became a node in the global economy when deindustrialization occurred in the 1980's precipitated by the closing of the largest manufacturing center in the U.S. of steel, and declines in the auto industry. Meanwhile garment, bio-medical and computer manufacturing increasingly utilized a large pool of low-wage, non-union labor of Asians and Central Americans. In addition, Asian companies established plants utilizing this immigrant labor force to establish footholds in the U.S. economy. L.A. then, has a dual economy, one that is global, high tech, and financial accompanied by manual, menial laborers who serve this sector. Abelmann notes that class and income inequality is maintained through residential segregation. She points to Korean Americans leaving Koreatown in the city center to live in Bel Air, Beverly Hills and Holmby Hills. Broadly speaking, ethnic enclaves of all groups consist of those who prosper and leave while the poor remain. 32

To sum up, in these global cities, immigrants filled the demands of the lower end of the dual labor market that comprise low-wage, labor-intensive work, including maintenance, cleaning, construction, day nannies and industrial, sweatshop homework. 33 Students will consider whether globalization processes including gentrification and the development of a dual labor market are evident in the fictional films.

Students will also be introduced to film analysis techniques including exploring how lighting, sound, special effects, characters and symbols are employed in each of the films. Students will employ a model for analyzing film. The model is a viewing technique called "Visual Thinking Strategy" (VTS): What is going on in this picture or scene? What do you see that makes you say that? What more can we find? 34Additional questions for each film source include: What is the relationship of the characters to the urban environment that helps to narrate the story? What living/survival strategies are evident? What does the film tell us about immigrant family life, economic role, class position, gender roles, attitudes toward diversity of receiving population, as well as the ideology of the filmmaker? In what ways do symbols help point out important themes?

Course Material and Media Outline

A summary of the ways in which the course material connect students to the major themes outlined in "Historical Background" and "Film/TV Background" follows:

El Norte, produced in 1983 by Gregory Nava is a ground-breaking story of a brother and sister, Enrique and Rosa, who are indigenous Mayan (who make up 8.6% of the population) peasants who flee persecution at home in Guatemala resulting from the Guatemalan Civil War and journey north through Mexico to the United States, with the dream of starting a new life. 35 The personal travails of immigrants crossing the militarized border to America had never been shown in the movies with "such urgent realism". 36 The setting for the film includes a motel where Enrique and Rosa live and are guided by Monty, the motel manager. The jobs the siblings obtain run the gamut of typical low-wage service sector work, including day laborer, restaurant work, garment manufacturing and domestic service. The dilemmas faced by each of them as a result of their unauthorized immigration status include INS raids of work places and the inability to access health care. Separate gender roles are also articulated in this film.

Dirty Pretty Things is a 2002 film that explores the exploitation of undocumented immigrants to England. The site of contact for many of the characters is a London hotel where Nigerian, Okwe has found night work to accompany his day job as a taxi driver and a Turkish Muslim woman, Senay, works as a cleaner. The film is a thriller that throws these two into the midst of an illegal human organ harvesting operation run by the hotel's manager. 37 The fact that the setting for this film is also a hotel is just one of many points of comparison to El Norte. Indeed, students will be encouraged to consider the symbolic value of the motel/hotel space. How is this transient space connected to the transient state of unauthorized migrants?

The key point for students in their analysis of the films is how immigrant labor is connected to economic production. The ubiquitous nature of garment manufacturing and service jobs such as taxi driving, cleaning and restaurant work is represented. In addition, both films and the Call the Midwife television episode clearly articulate the exploitative nature of the relationship between unauthorized immigrants and their employers. The 30 cents per piece offered to Rosa in the garment factory and the abuse of employees who fear being turned in to the authorities are examples of this relationship and are dramatically depicted. What will be highlighted for students though is the hopeful sense that immigrants bring to the receiving countries and the degree of agency they have over their work lives. In both films the characters, while operating within constrained choices, do exercise some choice, either by moving to new employment, improving work skills or by fighting back against abusive employers. Rosa for instance, goes into business with Nacha to clean houses and Senay leaves her job as a hotel maid after a raid by British authorities to work in a garment factory. Both Enrique and Rosa take English classes. Other similarities between the films include depictions of immigrant anxiety over health care, and the authorities' discovery of overstayed visas.

Modern Family is a television situation comedy that purports to depict contemporary diverse American families in Los Angeles, but actually represents mainstream American culture, including traditional gender roles. The main female characters do not work outside the home, for instance. Just as important, are the stereotyped views of immigrants depicted in the show. There is, for example, an unforgettable scene in which Jay, the wealthy Anglo main character, pictures his wife's Columbian family members overrunning the airport terminal and even worse staying with him at his home. The students will watch episode 501 from Season 5 called "Suddenly Last Summer". The main focus of the episode for students will be Manny's trip to visit relatives in Columbia. It was aired on September 25, 2013. 38

Call the Midwife is a BBC period drama series set in a desperately poor working class East End London in the 1950's. Students will view Episode 7 from Series 2. It offers a view into immigration from British colonial possessions, such as Jamaica. This episode depicts a pregnant Jamaican immigrant who struggles to deal with racial abuse from her working-class English neighbors. The episode also more generally explores the experience and struggle of black people from Commonwealth counties in the period that, Sassen points out, saw dramatic increases in immigration from the global south to the global north. These challenges included not only racist treatment from the white receiving population but also segregated housing, and limited low wage job opportunities. 39 It was aired March 3, 2013.

In addition to film analysis, students will also read about film theory, in order to have a structure for the evaluation of the films. Excerpts from Gordon Gray's book, Cinema: A Visual Anthropology will be provided. For Gray, understanding how cinema works and how it has affected so many people over long periods of time is important. Gray outlines various models for analyzing film including "National Cinema", the Marxist- influenced Frankfurt school and "Third Cinema". Filmmakers such as Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino argued that "first cinema" from Hollywood included technology, formal qualities of filmmaking and even exhibition spaces had become the universal standard throughout the world. Next European or "second cinema" rejected Hollywood conventions but still was centered on individual expression, the auteur. At best, "second cinema" testified to social injustice. "Third cinema" attempted to create oppositional cinema that contributed to liberation and to cultural revolution movements that were taking place in the Third World in the 1960's and 1970's. Their aim was to create international, class-based, politicized films. 40

Students will evaluate the selected fictional films using viewing techniques and questions specific to film, using "visual thinking strategies" in addition to these film models outlined above. As a result, students will not only deepen their understanding of the complexity of the immigrant experience, but will develop a critical sense/picture of how late 20 th and early 21 st century people viewed immigration. What will be highlighted for students is the way in which film as a global force either disseminates American ideology and ethos, and consumer mass culture or exposes and resists it.

While the unit's core is this film analysis, the exploration of globalization is augmented by student examination of primary sources. These sources include photos and oral interviews from immigrant children in England, and in the U.S. Art works such as "Continental Drift" by Wendy Osher that portray the global assembly line of garment manufacturing will also be examined. 41 Indeed, students will come full circle and will end their study by considering how globalization, immigration and migration from the point of view of their own local city. Globalization, immigration and migration is not just an issue for big cities like New York, Chicago, or L.A. For instance, students in Pittsburgh will research how the demise of manufacturing and the advent of high-end employment has brought about the Eds and Meds transformation of Pittsburgh in the 1980's and 1990's and how these processes have impacted goods production, labor markets, consumption and ideas about immigration and migration across borders. They will utilize oral interviews with recent immigrants to Pittsburgh available on the Pittsburgh Post Gazette's website, Odysseys, completed in June 2014.

Essential Questions


  1. What economic, social and political processes are involved in globalization, immigration and migration? What is the role of the global city in these processes?
  2. What form of the economy — post -industrial, service, finance — is evident in the films?
  3. How do immigrants connect to this economy?
  4. What gender differences are evident?
  5. How is the border represented?
  6. What local and regional differences are there between the global cities of Los Angeles and London?

Film Analysis

  1. Whose voices do we hear in the film? What film effects are utilized to convey the film's position on immigration?
  2. To what extent do these films reflect social reality? Are they representative of a particular ideology?


Students will employ a model that analyzes visual text through the viewing technique "Visual Thinking Strategy" (VTS) This technique avoids "frontloading" or the process of well-meaning teachers offering a predigested version of the answer. I have noticed that when I have employed the VTS technique students become engaged and excited about the image we are analyzing. It is also valuable because students have to employ observation and analysis, and be able to articulate their thoughts. Then they need to back their ideas up with specific supporting evidence from the piece. This fosters listening among classmates. All of this encourages student development and confidence in student analytical and articulation skills.

The learning strategy that would best facilitate student engagement and interest as well as better utilizing valuable classroom instruction time is the flipped classroom. In the flipped classroom or flip learning, students study the topic by themselves at home by watching a lecture or reading text. In class, students apply the knowledge by solving problems or doing other practical work. The teacher then tutors the students when they become stuck, rather than delivering the lesson themselves. Students learn by doing and asking questions, a process whereby they help each other which benefits both advanced and less advanced learners. Finally, a teacher's time is allocated differently. Teachers tend to engage with students who ask questions, however quieter students may be even more likely to need help. Teachers can target those learners rather than the more confident ones. The teacher becomes the guide on the side rather than the sage on the stage allowing the teacher to work with individuals or groups of students. 42 Students will be assigned selected portions of El Norte and Dirty Pretty Things to analyze at home. They will take notes on an organizer around film techniques such as lighting, special effects, setting, and symbols that point to character, theme and the perspective of filmmaker. Back in the classroom, they will work in small groups to prepare for a Socratic Seminar discussion that addresses the essential questions.

The learning strategy that will be utilized for discussion of student analysis of the global city through film will be the Socratic Seminar technique. This involves students first examining a text, in one case, the visual "text" of the films, and generating open-ended, higher-level questions for discussion. Open-ended questions include "How?" and "Why?" and allow students to think critically, analyze multiple meanings in the text, and express their ideas and opinions with clarity and confidence. During the seminar, students listen attentively and respond to one another with respect. Before agreeing or disagreeing with a classmate, students summarize that classmate's ideas/opinions, and then express their own with clarity and supporting evidence from the text. Students will also read selected excerpts from S. Sassen's The Global City, G. Gray's The Anthropology of Cinema, Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 and Eric Avila's Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight, Chapter 3 for a second Socratic Seminar.

Classroom Activities – The following lessons are meant as a sample of possible activities; they also present the basic arc of the unit.

Lesson One – What economic, social and political processes are involved in globalization, immigration and migration? What is the role of the global city in these processes?

Students will be guided through a series of activities that will make explicit the global assembly line and the global city.

Anticipatory Set: Using mini-post-its, have pairs of students record the countries where most of their clothing is made. Have students come up to a large world map to post these at the front of the room. The result will be a large pile of post-its in a handful of countries, thus illustrating visually where most of our clothing is made.

Next, explain that a political map is not the only representation of the global assembly line. Students will examine an art work by Wendy Osher called "Continental Drift" that depicts actual clothing tags collected from people which is displayed on a sheer piece of fabric. (See Students then discuss and write responses to following questions:

Why are some countries larger on this map than they are on a "typical" political map of the world (like the one in your textbook)?

What is the artist trying to convey? What do you think this work of art says about globalization? Do you think the artist has a positive or negative view of it? Why?

Background: Note that students will have already studied prior historical moments of globalization. They will also have read in their textbook by R.W. Strayer, Ways of the World, Chapter 23 "Capitalism and Culture: A New Phase of Global Interaction since 1945" which not only summarizes globalization processes but distinguishes twentieth century and early twenty-first century globalization. They will be encouraged to utilize this knowledge as they complete the activity below.

In groups students will examine images of garment manufacturing, high-tech work places, and read oral interviews with recent immigrants to LA and London. (Irby; Post Gazette; Strayer, p.1140 & 1182 (brianafrica/Alamy) Through this analysis students will identify and define immigration, migration, the dual labor market, and note that capital follows labor and labor follows capital.

Lesson Two — What form of economy — post -industrial, service, finance — is evident in the films? How do immigrants connect to this economy? What gender differences are evident? How is the border represented?

Anticipatory Set – View excerpts from Hollywood films such as Titanic and discuss the portrayal of immigration as a linear progression involving upward social mobility.

El Norte, Modern Family, Dirty Pretty Things, and Call the Midwife are the unit's primary source for the analysis of how popular culture has represented these processes of globalization migration and immigration. Students will observe, interpret and then evaluate these films at home using visual thinking strategies.

Using flipped learning, students read selected excerpts from S. Sassen's The Global City, G. Gray's The Anthropology of Cinema, Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 and Eric Avila's Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight, Chapter 3 and generate open-ended, higher-level questions for discussion including "How?" and "Why?"

Back in the classroom, they will work in small groups to prepare for a Socratic Seminar discussion that addresses the essential questions and themes of home conditions, role of geography and colonialism for immigration, representations of the border, work and living conditions in the global city, gentrification, and the perspective of the filmmakers. Student groups will present these themes highlighted by Sassen, Gray and Avila with key representative scenes from the films.

Lesson Three – Students write a summative essay:

To what extent do the most recent circuits of immigration and migration to global cities represent both continuity and change in the process of globalization in world history?


Compare and contrast how immigration, migration and globalization processes played out in the global cities of Los Angeles and London?

Writing continuity versus change as well as comparative essays, are key skills required in student academic development as historical thinkers and writers. AP World History specifically focuses on this type of writing. These skills are also embedded in the Social Studies PA and Common Core Standards. (see the appendix).

Future Lessons – How have the global processes of immigration and migration been expressed in your city?

Students research, design and create a film about the experience of immigration and migration grounded in a city setting such as a neighborhood or work place. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette's online archive ( of recent immigrant interviews will serve as a beginning point for student research and exploration. An article by Mark Hofer, Kathy Swan and Sharon Zuber outlines the process of documentary filmmaking in "Teaching Social Studies Students to 'Write with Light': Using the Documentary Filmmaking Process". 43

The authors provide a template that sets out a four-phase documentary production process that includes 1) research of the topic using guiding questions that challenges students to incorporate analysis that builds toward a point of view 2) documentary treatment or thesis with scene-by-scene outline of essential concepts and appropriate evidence 3) storyboard that fleshes out all the elements in the movie frame including visuals, sound, narration, effects and 4) film production when filmmakers assemble their film and bring the vision of the storyboard to the screen. The article helpfully provides rubrics for each stage of the documentary making process and a document analysis sheet.

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