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  • The Devil behind the Mirror: Globalization and Politics in the Dominican Republic, and : Negociando la aldea global con un pie “aquí” otro “allá”: La diáspora femenina dominicana y la transculturalidad como alternativa descolonizadora
  • Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof
Steven Gregory. 2007. The Devil behind the Mirror: Globalization and Politics in the Dominican Republic. Berkeley: University California Press. 285 pp. ISBN: 9780520249295.
Karin Weyland. 2006. Negociando la aldea global con un pie “aquí” otro “allá”: La diáspora femenina dominicana y la transculturalidad como alternativa descolonizadora. Santo Domingo: Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo. 319 pp. ISBN: 9993425648.

Over the last two decades of the twentieth century the politics of international development dramatically remade the relationship between the Dominican Republic and the world economy. This shift began in the midst of the Latin American debt crisis. Under pressure from the IMF and the United States government (both committed fully to neoliberal economic theory) Dominican governments entered into a series of structural adjustment agreements, including drastic cuts in public spending, financial reforms, lower barriers to imports, and eventually privatization of utilities and state industries. With support from Washington, Dominican governments also began a shift away from a heavy focus on agricultural exports towards export processing and tourism. Since the middle of the 1990s, the process of structural adjustment and neoliberal reform has been largely subsumed into a broader boom in international trade, communications, and financial transactions (supported by the same neoliberal politics) known as globalization. As the Dominican state withdrew from spending on education, health care, and price supports, Dominicans turned to the informal sector and international migration in order to survive. Yet Dominicans, even those precariously perched on the informal margins of the new economy, had increasing contact with a flood of goods and images generated by the global boom—a promise of material well being that in no way matched the limited economic opportunities afforded by the new economy. Meanwhile, the political and subsistence crises in neighboring Haiti led to a major flow of migration of Haitians into the Dominican Republic. Haitians had long been part of Dominican society in border and sugar regions. Now they became part of an increasingly multicultural society in cities and in the new tourism and export-processing enclaves. As [End Page 269] Dominican governments sought to maintain legitimacy in an era of austerity, they made Haitians into targets of official xenophobia, racism, and human rights violations.

The two books under review seek to document and analyze the social and cultural consequences of neoliberalism and globalization in the Dominican Republic. They share a deeply humane concern for the effects of structural adjustment policies and globalization on local communities and individuals in the Dominican Republic and an interest in the creative responses of those communities to these new circumstances. In Negociando la aldea global, Karin Weyland, a sociologist who has lived and worked in Santo Domingo, offers primarily a work of theoretical synthesis, drawing together ideas about globalization from Octavio Ianni, Saskia Sassen, Néstor García Canclini, and Manuel Castells with the classic accounts of transnationalism by Glick Schiller, Basch, Blanc-Szanton, Portes, and others. Blending this theory with a survey of secondary literature and coverage in Santo Domingo newspapers, Weyland argues that contemporary international migration, which she calls “transnationalism from below,” constitutes a distinctly new practice of border crossing and should be seen as a creative response to the repressive “from above” forms of globalization. Her research subjects are Dominican women migrants who settled in New York City during the 1980s and 1990s. These women, she argues, used family and kinship ties to get visas, to share childcare across national boundaries, to start businesses, and most importantly to move from a context of informal and household labor (or factory labor in export processing zones) to factory labor in New York sweatshops. Though she notes the struggles and injustices migrant women face as workers, women, and racialized minorities in the U.S., she also hears in their accounts a consistent thread of improvement. They have more freedom in their households, better wages, even better status back home as a result of migration. Since these women faced entrenched barriers to social mobility and personal freedom...


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