“Colonial Phantoms”–Interview with Dixa Ramírez


ESENDOM interviews author and Brown University professor Dixa Ramírez on her new book Colonial Phantoms: Belonging and Refusal in the Dominican Americas, from the 19th Century to the Present ( New York University Press, 2018). [See previous post New Book: Colonial Phantoms: Belonging and Refusal in the Dominican Americas/.]  Here are excerpts from the post:

[. . .] In this interview, Dixa Ramírez talks about the legacies of colonialism that still haunt the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean, the hegemony of Western discourses and the alternative modes of cultural productions that continue to inform and shape Dominican society and immigrant communities from the Dominican Republic living in the United States.

What motivated you to write this book? I wrote the book that I wish existed. My training in broader Caribbean, Latinx, and African Diaspora studies led me to the conclusion that Dominican history and culture had something very unique and even strange to teach us about all of these fields. I yearned for a book that showed how the D.R.’s unique history as a space that hosted a majority free black population for centuries influenced Dominicans’ view of themselves and how others saw them. Because of the global hierarchical order, the ways in which world powers saw (or perhaps more aptly didn’t see) the Dominican Republic would indelibly shape Dominican literature (e.g., Salomé Ureña, Julia Alvarez, Aurora Arias, and Junot Díaz), music and performance (e.g., Amara la Negra, Maluca Mala, Tony Seval, and El Alfa), film (e.g., La Soga, Princesas, and Sand Dollars), and even architecture (e.g., the Columbus Lighthouse). [. . .]

What contributions is your book making to advance the discussion on dominicanidad in the United States?  Colonial Phantoms shows the ways in which Dominican culture and history have a singular place in the Americas as having hosted a majority free black society for centuries. It explores how Dominicans have dealt with this legacy, both on the island and in various diasporic spaces, as well as how non-Dominicans have faced this legacy. I see my book as illuminating how official histories in the D.R. and in the U.S.—both national and regional—have obfuscated this crucial space of black freedom in all its ambivalence. [. . .] More broadly, Colonial Phantoms explores the ways in which colonial social structures shaped the supposedly post-colonial spaces we inhabit in all their anti-black, white supremacist, and patriarchal glory.

In recent years, there have been several publications focusing on Dominican society and the immigrant experience of Dominicans abroad. Can you list some of the authors working in and outside of academia that in your view are thinking outside the box and moving beyond a traditional academic paradigm? [. . .] I’ve been lucky to be part of a community of people interested telling more complex stories about the Dominican Republic in English (I say this because people have been doing important work for a very long time in the D.R.). Among them, I include folks such as Omaris Zamora, Lorgia García Peña, Anne Eller, Raj Chetty, and Rachel Afi Quinn. I’m only listing those who have recently published or are close to publishing their first book and who work in the U.S. To me, Dominican and Dominican-American writers have also been some of the most likely to express the complexity of Dominican culture and history, especially folks like Aurora Arias, Rita Indiana Hernández, Nelly Rosario, Junot Díaz, Pedro Cabiya (who I know is not Domincan but whose Wicked Weeds is just brilliant), and others. I’d also add that another angle that is insufficiently explored is how literature by Haitian and Haitian-American writers can also illuminate Dominican studies. More specifically, the fact that most Haitian discourses do not at all discuss the Dominican case, whereas Dominican culture (and concomitantly Dominican studies) has been obsessed with Haiti as a reality or as a specter. [. . .]

For original post, see https://esendom.com/interviews/2018/6/30/colonial-phantoms-interview-with-dixa-ramrez

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