The Avatar Project was one of the most interesting and engaging aspects of the course for me. It was also one of the most difficult. I would spend hours on each post, looking up places, newspapers, and common baby names so as to make my diary entries as authentic as possible. I believe that personal narrative is one of the most effective avenues through which to connect with history. As people, we connect with the personal. It makes sense that we would engage with the past through individual lenses considering that is how we engage with the present.
The Avatar Project allowed me to take the broader history and complicated context—which were also vital in understanding what happened in Chile and Argentina—and break them down to the human level. How would these historical events influence and affect this one person, Pato from Arica? It also provided a great opportunity to dig deeper. While we were learning much about the happenings in Santiago, the Avatar Project both expanded and narrowed my scope to think about what was happening in the north of Chile (at least at the beginning).
I thought that the Avatar Project fit into the structure of the class well. For me, this semester was about learning the specific history of Chile’s and Argentina’s dirty wars, but also learning how to think about history in general. At the beginning and end of the semester we talked about what it means to study history, and what our role as students is when engaging with difficult pasts. My final paper explores this theme because I am so interested in the pedagogical component of the course.
I think hearing and reading personal accounts of what happened during this period from the professor, testimonial literature, and documentaries, and then creating our own first-hand accounts, allowed history to “come alive.” This information took on greater meaning than if we had just learned about events and the broader sociopolitical context. I do not believe that the personal narrative should substitute this background information, but rather that they complement each other and both are necessary for deep engagement and learning to take place. I definitely think the Avatar Project helped me connect with the content, and I hope you continue to use it in the future.