While at dinner with my roommate a few nights ago, she asked me a question: In which of my classes this semester had I learned the most interesting things? My answer was a different politics class, which surprised my roommate. “I’d have thought it would be Dirty Wars, given that that seems to be the class I’ve heard you talk about the most this semester.”
The difference, I think, is that in that other class, I feel like I learned more facts and concepts than in this class. But if she had asked, “In which class did you learn the most?” my answer would have changed, because I feel that this class has given me more insight into my own thought process and how I study and reflect upon the world around me.
At the beginning of this project, I realized that my character would be between the ages of 16 and 23 during the military dictatorship in Argentina, about the same age that I am now. And given this age and the other characteristics that she came with, I made the conscious decision that she would be a fairly self-absorbed person. Not in any malicious manner, but in the sense that she only really cared about issues and suffering if they impacted her life directly. And so through this, she tended to me more concerned about the economic situation of Argentina, and her support or opposition to the military junta mostly reflected whether she felt they were useful or harmful to her or not. It was only after she started to mature as the truth about the regime came out, and after she met her husband Cristian, who had personal connections to the disappearances, that she began to realize how unaware she had been.
As I was writing from her perspectives, I thought a lot about how I myself have matured in the past few years. Coming from a very white, privileged community, only in the last five years have I started to learn about the kinds of oppression that have happened in our world and continue to happen today. It’s easy for me to forget how little I knew until recently and to get frustrated when people in my life remain unaware. But it was also easy to recognize a lot of myself in my avatar, especially considering that I came into this class knowing very little about the dictatorships in the Southern Cone. It doesn’t make me entirely proud to admit it, but her responses are probably not too different from what my own would have been had I been in her shoes.
For this reason, the hardest part wasn’t finding the voice for my avatar. What I did struggle with is that I fell behind very early on in the semester, and though I had drafts and ideas for what I wanted to write for each post as we went along, I couldn’t post more recent blogs because I hadn’t finished the ones that came before. I also found myself struggling with odd topics as I was writing, particularly in earlier posts. I constantly found myself spending too much time researching small facts about what daily life would have been like in Argentina at the time, to try to avoid any inaccuracies in my writing. It’s not as though these details were all about life under the junta, but also smaller details that felt unrelated to this class, like how likely it would be for my character to walk to school or wedding traditions. Though I know that these details are important to creating the atmosphere, I still felt like I was wasting time by looking up facts that felt superfluous next to all of the things that we learned in class and in the readings.
I thought at the beginning of the class that I would have trouble with living inside of this avatar persona and writing about the experiences. Maybe if I had an avatar who was persecuted by the military, I would have had more of a struggle with my role in discussing torture or disappearances and their impacts and whether my writing was bordering on exploitative (this isn’t exactly the word that I’m looking for, but it’s close). But for what it was, I thought that this project was particularly effective in allowing me to view the life of someone in Argentina outside of what we talked about in class. One question that was constantly on my mind during this semester is the question of how much of these horrors were known to what parts of society, vs. what came out much later. After such an intensive study, it’s hard to believe that people couldn’t have known, but of course everything is more clear in hindsight.