Lorgia García-Peña explains her approach to ‘The Borders of Dominicanidad’

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A post by Peter Jordens. 

In a brief interview by Ibram X. Kendi for the African American Intellectual History Society, Harvard University Professor Lorgia García-Peña explains her approach to her new book, The Borders of Dominicanidad: Race, Nation, and Archives of Contradiction (Duke University Press, November 2016).

Kendi: Please share with us your source materials, intellectual approaches, and writing style?

García-PeñaThe Borders of Dominicanidad is an incredibly personal intellectual project that seeks to expand the conceptual borders that have dominated scholarship in Latinx and Black studies in the U.S. through the analysis of Dominicanidad (Dominicanness). I see dominicanidad as a category that emerges from the historical events that placed the Dominican Republic in a geographic and symbolic border between the United States and Haiti since its birth in 1844. Dominicanidad is thus inclusive of subjects as well as the dictions that produce them. It also encompasses multiple territories and ethnoracial identifications: Dominicanyork, rayanodominicano, Afro-Dominican. Those, in turn, make up Dominican subjectivities across national spaces.

My approach to dominicanidad comes from a very personal intellectual questioning of the multiple ways in which silences and repetitions operate in the erasure of racialized Dominican subjects from the nation(s) and its archive(s). Those silences are often filled with fantasies that reflect colonial desires and fears that in turn cement exclusion. My book, in many ways, interrupts historical silences by recovering and historicizing dominicanidad through what I call contradictions, “dictions”—stories, narratives, and speech acts—that go against the hegemonic version of national identity and against the mode of analysis we tend to value as historically accurate or what most people call truth. The Borders of Dominicanidad is concerned with the ways in which dictions are projected and performed on racialized bodies to sustain the exclusionary borders of the nation. Such acts of violent nation bordering are historically determined, yet they also require the complicity of citizens in the violent policing and erasure of racialized bodies. My book thus embarks on a historization of the relationship between the United States, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. My historization, however, is methodologically grounded on the counterpoint analysis of historical and cultural texts including photographs, performances, archival documents, literary texts, and Afro-religious chants. My methodological approach is then twofold: on the one hand I construct an alternative archive—an archive of contradictions—through the use of unconventional texts, understudied materials, and never-before-studied archival documents. On the other, I propose the idea of reading in contradiction, against the dominant archives in order to break silences that dominate national narratives.

The Borders of Dominicanidad bridges the multiplicity of margins of dominicanidad while also bringing attention to the intangibility and elusiveness of the divisions that emerge on the individual as well as collective levels of the population. My book thus suggests a reimagining not only of the physical, militarized borders that separate the two nations that inhabit Hispaniola, but also of the series of loose articulations, discourses, traumas, myths, contradictions, and historical events that have informed the Dominican subject’s understanding of him- or herself in relation to Haiti and the United States. Borders are about regulating, controlling, and prohibiting the free crossings of bodies and objects from one locale to another. They are also about containing the undesirable outside of the nation’s center. Thus the body of the (undesirable) border-crosser is inscribed with the historical, social, and legal events that seek to contain/control it. These inscriptions can in turn become another way of understanding “truth.” The body of the border subject—the prieto, the rayano, the Haitian immigrant, or the Dominicanyork—can also become an archive of contradiction. [. . .]

For the original, full interview, go to http://www.aaihs.org/borders-of-dominicanidad-a-new-book-on-dominican-racial-identity.

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