Hosting a screening? Feel free to use the suggested discussion questions below to facilitate a post-screening discussion.
Sample Discussion Questions
1. What challenges did the women face because they were women? How did they address or overcome them?
2. A gender role is a cultural norm that defines how a man or a women should act, dress, think, and interact with others. Based on the stories told in Vanishing Borders, how are female gender norms in the U.S. different from those in the women’s countries of origin? How are they the same?
3. Yatna states, “In India, women stay home. Only husbands work. But there is a discrimination in this society also that I found towards women.” She goes on to discuss how there are few women in positions of power in government and the private sector, and that women earn less than men for doing the same job. Do you agree with her portrayal of gender in the U.S.? And if so, how can we work to create gender equality in our society?
4. Feminism is not the same around the globe — it takes different forms based on each culture’s way of life, expectations, and customs. How did the women’s comments about feminism fit with or differ from your feminist views?
5. Daphne says, “In America, when you have an accent either you’re eroticized or you’re discriminated against. It’s one or the other. So as a woman, I know I would be eroticized.” Do you agree with that statement, and if so, why do you think a woman’s accent is interpreted differently from a man’s?
1. What challenges as a result of their race did the women face in their home countries and in the U.S.? How did they address/overcome them?
2. Daphnie said that America “is better than where I grew up, but I still want to make it even better.” What are some problems surrounding race that still need to be addressed in the U.S.?
3. As Teboho mentions, South Africa has forward-thinking policies regarding race, but the they are not being properly implemented. How forward-thinking is American racial policy? And how successfully is it being implemented?
4. The metaphorical “Other” refers to the act of stereotyping, distrusting, and/or dehumanizing people who are different. In Vanishing Borders, Teboho talks about being mistreated because of her race in apartheid South Africa, and Daphnie mentions that in spite of her education, people judge her because she’s a Latina. How can Othering immigrants and/or racial groups be damaging to a country and those living in it?
5. People of color often have their American-ness questioned. Yatna said her daughter was bullied after 9/11 because of her skin color. She asked her mother: “I am American. Why am I called these things?” Why do you think some people question the belonging of people of color in this country? And how can we improve this situation?
1. Why did each of the women decide to move to the U.S.? Did these reasons fit within your previous notions about immigration? Why or why not?
2. What challenges did the women face when moving to a new country? Do you think the journey was worth it for them in spite of the challenges?
3. Cultural hybridity is a mixing of two or more cultures. Each of the four women in Vanishing Borders felt like their identity was tied to more than one culture and/or country. How did this benefit them and their communities? Were there any drawbacks, and if so, what were they?
4. Yatna’s son, Hersh, who is a second-generation immigrant, states that “belonging to two different cultures improves my life because I get to see the contrast of the two cultures and I get to see what’s better for me and what I can take from each culture.” How does Hersh’s bi-cultural experience differ from his mother’s, since unlike her, he has spent the majority of his life living in one country while she has lived in two?
5. When Melainie talks about her experience immigrating to Japan, she mentions the challenges of learning a new language while adjusting to a new culture. She explains how her immigration helped her to “empathize a great deal” with non-native English speakers in Australia, realizing “how isolating” illiteracy can be and “how difficult it is to learn a second language.” How did this discussion affect your views on those who struggle to learn English in the U.S.?
1. Globalization is the increase of connection among businesses, technology, people, and ideas from different parts of the world. Based on this documentary, what is the role of immigration in globalization?
2. Based on the documentary and your personal experiences, what are some of the benefits of globalization? Some of the drawbacks?
3. As seen in Vanishing Borders, globalization allows people and cultures from around the world to interact and communicate. Do you think these interactions dilute cultures or enrich them? How?
4. Many of the women use modern technology to communicate with family members in their home countries. In what ways has face-to-face technology, such as Skype, facilitated globalization both in personal and professional spheres?
5. Yatna’s husband, Govind, says of living in the U.S.: “I am glad here, in a sense that I have a good wife, I have good kids, I have a good life. But then … I would probably have a better life living in India.” Often it is assumed that immigrants coming to the U.S. will have a higher quality of life here than in their home countries. How has Govind’s experience affected your view on this assumption? What other reasons besides quality of life do people have for immigrating?
For additional questions and pedagogical approaches, here is Laura B. Johnson’s Vanishing Borders study guide for an Introduction to Human Geography course at Michigan State University. If you have already hosted a screening, please help future hosts by sharing the resources you used with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.