Easy Targets / Los Vulnerables is a participatory action research project & video documentary project (Salt Lake City, Utah (2007-2009) focused on the challenges undocumented students face in trying to go to college. Easy Targets was produced by an intergenerational research team who conducted interviews with students, parents, community members, and legislators in order to understand this complex issue. Easy Targets sheds light on the barriers to higher education, while highlighting the significance of House Bill 144 which grants undocumented students the right to in-state tuition.
Easy Targets / Los Vulnerables documentary is 25 minutes long and available with Spanish subtitles. A shorter 5 minute version of Easy Targets was made specifically for distribution to the Utah State Legislators. The documentary was screened publically at the State Capital, the Salt Lake City library, and in other public venues throughout the state of Utah and beyond.
The Easy Targets research team was a community-university partnership including Salt Lake City westside high school students/youth researchers, University of Utah faculty members and students, the Salt Lake City Mayor’s YouthCity program, and University Neighborhood Partners, University of Utah.
Caitlin Cahill (PI, co-director/ faculty member, University of Utah)
Matt Bradley (co-director/faculty member, University of Utah)
Youth research team : Larissa Esquivel, Maria Valerio, & Jessica Sandberg
Research assistants: Denise Castaneda, Sonia Caraveo, Ariana Prazen, Roberta Targino
Easy Targets youth researchers conducted interviews with students, parents, teachers, and legislators. We attended and documented legislative sessions at the State Capital, and community meetings, filming over 20 hours of tape. Collectively we made decisions about how to edit the documentary as part of our data analysis process. Labors of love and collective negotiation, each decision, from how to film a particular interview, or what clips to include (or cut), was made after much deliberation between the youth researchers, students and their mentors.
Questions we struggled with included (see Cahill & Torre, 2007): Who has the authority to represent a community’s point of view? Is there a “we” within the community, or even within our research team, being represented? Who is made vulnerable by our research? How can we contextualize the narrative of immigration and address the damaging consequences of globalization, structural racism, and exploitation? And, how do we “represent” this context on film? How do we frame a critique of an educational system that is not meeting undocumented students’ needs and still advocate for their inclusion? How do we contextualize the exploitation of undocumented communities in a larger conversation about structural racism and economic injustice and still hope to reach out to and engage decision-makers invested in meritocracy?
Cahill, C (2013) The road less traveled: Transcultural community building. In Jeff Hou (editor) Transcultural Cities: Border-crossing and Placemaking. Routledge, Chapter 14, pp. 193-206.
Cahill, C. (2010) “Why do they hate us?” Reframing immigration through participatory action research. Area Volume 42, Issue 2, pages 152–161.
Cahill, C. (2009) Planning for change: Community-based urban research with young people Finding Meaning in Civically Engaged Scholarship. Information Age Publishing: Charlotte, NC.
Cahill, C.; Bradley, M.; Castañeda, D.; Esquivel, L.; Mohamed, N.; Organista; J.; Sandberg, J.; Valerio, M.; and Winston, K. (2008) “Represent”: Reframing risk through participatory video research. In Downing, M. & Tenney, L (Eds.). Video Vision: Changing the Culture of Social Science Research. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 207-228.
Cahill, C. (2007) Repositioning ethical commitments: Participatory action research as a relational praxis of social change ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, Vol. 6, 3, 360-
Easy Targets was generously supported by:
The Lowell Bennion Community Service Center of the University of Utah,
University Neighborhood Partners,
Association of American Geographers,
Office of Diversity, University of Utah;
Office of Academic Outreach, University of Utah