January 4, 2015
I would first like to say thank you for creating an alternative means of looking at history through blogging. In all of my years of school, I’ve never experienced such a unique tactic. I appreciated blogging as Nahuel because it forced me to recognize that history is something that happened to actual people, like myself. I think as a sociologist, and just as a person in general, it is easy to situate historical events in the context of the time period or place, and then reflect on the impact those events have on future societies. This is how students are taught to engage with the past at an early age. However, it is much more difficult to conceptualize historical events as being shaped by the experiences of individual people. I’m not sure if I’m explaining this right. But my point is, that until I had to do this blog, it never truly clicked to me that the wars, violence, and revolution we read about are extraordinary events that people have to deal with in their day to day lives. When you’re planning to take a girl on a date and getting ready for that, she could just disappear or be killed. Though I am from a very dangerous city, and being a black woman in this country is dangerous, I have enjoyed the luxury of idly preparing to go out without the looming fear of tragedy striking, over my head. I think this is one of the reasons the avatar project was so difficult for me. I’m not particularly in touch with my own emotions, so it was arduous at times for me to imagine and convey emotions I’ve never even experienced.
I also found blogging to be useful because it forced me to do the readings and to engage with them. I will admit that I didn’t complete all of the readings, so some of my posts were more basic than others. Nevertheless, when I did read, I liked being able to reflect on what I had read in a creative way. Since the readings were so long, blogging was sometimes the only way I could make whatever tidbits of information I’d gleamed from the text to stick. At a basic level, I can see why you made us blog; it made us be accountable for the required readings for the class. However, I think the structure of the assignments (and the rubric therefore) undervalue an individual’s choice in how they want to approach this course. Everyone does not read at the same pace, and though I understand that giving us a week to write it allows for more flexibility, it still assumes that everyone will be able to get to the reading that week. If not, the penalty for a late post is automatically dropping the grade to a 25%. On that level, I found this system of blogging to be flawed in that the two options you have are to read within the week’s time frame and write something or “bs,” for lack of better words, because if you don’t, your grade will suffer. I know I was faced with this conflict often, and I’m sure plenty of other people in the class experienced it as some point too.
This conflict, however, relies on the assumption that completing the readings would help me to complete the assignment. As I’m sure you’ve been able to gleam from some of the other posts, for students blogging as an Argentine, this often wasn’t true. There were lots of readings (and lectures) based on Chile and what happened there, but I felt like the only class resource we had for Argentina was the big Political Violence book. I often times would push myself to complete the reading, saying it would help me to better understand what was happening in Argentina and write a better blog post, only to finish it and be just as clueless what to write as before I started. Consequently, I did brief research on the historical timeline of Argentina before most of my posts. Since I was blogging as a person living then, though, I didn’t really know what I should be Googling– what resources would be helpful. I think that’s part of the reason why I made my avatar a poet. Poetry uses large brushstrokes of the imagination to create a fuzzy image of reality for the reader to decipher. Sometimes vague was all I could do, because I didn’t know what was happening in Argentina, specifically.
In closing, I appreciated the avatar project for pushing me as a student, sociologist, and historian. However, I just don’t think it was the right project for me. Structurally, it placed expectations on me that I was neither comfortable with nor felt capable of accomplishing. As a consequence, my avatar’s personal narrative never quite developed in the ways I wish it could have. I hope you can read my blogs (and everyone else’s) for what it is; a 2014 student trying to understand and convey (but also create) the life of someone who lived in a different time, place, and context than I ever have. You can only expect that sometimes, the student will dramatically fail. But also, I hope you acknowledge that every 2014 student has had different life experiences that make them more or less receptive to a project like this. Thank you.