The Borders of Dominicanidad: Race, Nation, and Archives of Contradiction

Duke University Press
Free sample

In The Borders of Dominicanidad Lorgia García-Peña explores the ways official narratives and histories have been projected onto racialized Dominican bodies as a means of sustaining the nation's borders. García-Peña constructs a genealogy of dominicanidad that highlights how Afro-Dominicans, ethnic Haitians, and Dominicans living abroad have contested these dominant narratives and their violent, silencing, and exclusionary effects. Centering the role of U.S. imperialism in drawing racial borders between Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the United States, she analyzes musical, visual, artistic, and literary representations of foundational moments in the history of the Dominican Republic: the murder of three girls and their father in 1822; the criminalization of Afro-religious practice during the U.S. occupation between 1916 and 1924; the massacre of more than 20,000 people on the Dominican-Haitian border in 1937; and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. García-Peña also considers the contemporary emergence of a broader Dominican consciousness among artists and intellectuals that offers alternative perspectives to questions of identity as well as the means to make audible the voices of long-silenced Dominicans.
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About the author

Lorgia García-Peña is Assistant Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of History and Literature at Harvard University.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Oct 13, 2016
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780822373667
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Caribbean & West Indies / General
Social Science / Discrimination & Race Relations
Social Science / Ethnic Studies / Hispanic American Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Shortly after winning its independence in 1804, Haiti’s leaders realized
that if their nation was to survive, it needed to build strong diplomatic bonds
with other nations. Haiti’s first leaders looked especially hard at the United
States, which had a sizeable free black population that included vocal
champions of black emigration and colonization. In the 1820s, President
Jean-Pierre Boyer helped facilitate a migration of thousands of black Americans
to Haiti with promises of ample land, rich commercial prospects, and most
importantly, a black state. His ideas struck a chord with both blacks and
whites in America. Journalists and black community leaders advertised emigration
to Haiti as a way for African Americans to resist discrimination and show the
world that the black race could be an equal on the world stage, while
antislavery whites sought to support a nation founded by liberated slaves.
Black and white businessmen were excited by trade potential, and racist whites
viewed Haiti has a way to export the race problem that plagued America.


By the end of the decade, black Americans migration to Haiti began to ebb as
emigrants realized that the Caribbean republic wasn’t the black Eden they’d
anticipated. Caribbean Crossing
documents the rise and fall of the campaign for black emigration to Haiti,
drawing on a variety of archival sources to share the rich voices of the
emigrants themselves. Using letters, diary accounts, travelers’ reports,
newspaper articles, and American, British, and French consulate records, Sara
Fanning profiles the emigrants and analyzes the diverse motivations that fueled
this unique early moment in both American and Haitian history.

Racial history has always been the thorn in America’s side, with a swath of injustices—slavery, lynching, segregation, and many other ills—perpetrated against black people. This very history is complicated by, and also dependent on, what constitutes a white person in this country. Many of the European immigrant groups now considered white also had to struggle with their own racial identities.

In A Great Conspiracy against Our Race, Peter Vellon explores how Italian immigrants, a once undesirable and “swarthy” race, assimilated into dominant white culture through the influential national and radical Italian language press in New York City. Examining the press as a cultural production of the Italian immigrant community, this book investigates how this immigrant press constructed race, class, and identity from 1886 through 1920. Their frequent coverage of racially charged events of the time, as well as other topics such as capitalism and religion, reveals how these papers constructed a racial identity as Italian, American, and white.

A Great Conspiracy against Our Race vividly illustrates how the immigrant press was a site where socially constructed categories of race, color, civilization, and identity were reworked, created, contested, and negotiated. Vellon also uncovers how Italian immigrants filtered societal pressures and redefined the parameters of whiteness, constructing their own identity. This work is an important contribution to not only Italian American history, but America’s history of immigration and race.

Black behind the Ears is an innovative historical and ethnographic examination of Dominican identity formation in the Dominican Republic and the United States. For much of the Dominican Republic’s history, the national body has been defined as “not black,” even as black ancestry has been grudgingly acknowledged. Rejecting simplistic explanations, Ginetta E. B. Candelario suggests that it is not a desire for whiteness that guides Dominican identity discourses and displays. Instead, it is an ideal norm of what it means to be both indigenous to the Republic (indios) and “Hispanic.” Both indigeneity and Hispanicity have operated as vehicles for asserting Dominican sovereignty in the context of the historically triangulated dynamics of Spanish colonialism, Haitian unification efforts, and U.S. imperialism. Candelario shows how the legacy of that history is manifest in contemporary Dominican identity discourses and displays, whether in the national historiography, the national museum’s exhibits, or ideas about women’s beauty. Dominican beauty culture is crucial to efforts to identify as “indios” because, as an easily altered bodily feature, hair texture trumps skin color, facial features, and ancestry in defining Dominicans as indios.

Candelario draws on her participant observation in a Dominican beauty shop in Washington Heights, a New York City neighborhood with the oldest and largest Dominican community outside the Republic, and on interviews with Dominicans in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Santo Domingo. She also analyzes museum archives and displays in the Museo del Hombre Dominicano and the Smithsonian Institution as well as nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century European and American travel narratives.

Like two roosters in a fighting arena, Haiti and the Dominican Republic are encircled by barriers of geography and poverty. They co-inhabit the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, but their histories are as deeply divided as their cultures: one French-speaking and black, one Spanish-speaking and mulatto. Yet, despite their antagonism, the two countries share a national symbol in the rooster--and a fundamental activity and favorite sport in the cockfight. In this book, Michele Wucker asks: "If the symbols that dominate a culture accurately express a nation's character, what kind of a country draws so heavily on images of cockfighting and roosters, birds bred to be aggressive? What does it mean when not one but two countries that are neighbors choose these symbols? Why do the cocks fight, and why do humans watch and glorify them?"

Wucker studies the cockfight ritual in considerable detail, focusing as much on the customs and histories of these two nations as on their contemporary lifestyles and politics. Her well-cited and comprehensive volume also explores the relations of each nation toward the United States, which twice invaded both Haiti (in 1915 and 1994) and the Dominican Republic (in 1916 and 1965) during the twentieth century. Just as the owners of gamecocks contrive battles between their birds as a way of playing out human conflicts, Wucker argues, Haitian and Dominican leaders often stir up nationalist disputes and exaggerate their cultural and racial differences as a way of deflecting other kinds of turmoil. Thus Why the Cocks Fight highlights the factors in Caribbean history that still affect Hispaniola today, including the often contradictory policies of the U.S.

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