- The Borders of Dominicanidad: Race, Nation, and Archives of Contradiction by Lorgia García-Peña
The book The Borders of Dominicanidad: Race, Nation and Archives of Contradiction, by Lorgia García-Peña, presents an in-depth analysis about the contradictions in official narratives and history of 'Dominicanidad', the racialized policing of borders of the nation and the alter-native diasporic voices who are reclaiming a different embodied memory of Blackness. As stated by the author The Borders of Dominicanidad is
concerned with the ways in which dictions are projected and performed on racialized bodies to sustain exclusionary borders of the nation … official stories are influential in bordering the nation and shaping national identity…[such] stories and histories upheld by nations and their dominant archive create marginality through acts of exclusion, violence and silencing…but they are always contested, negotiated and even redefined through contradictions…(3)
The author explains how through an in-depth examination of "the production of Dominicanidad at home and abroad" she brings an "urgent questioning of the multiple ways in which silences and repetitions operate in the erasure of racialized Dominican subjects from the national archive" (5). These "acts of violent nation bordering" also "require the complicity of citizens in the violent policing and erasure of racialized bodies" (the most recent example being the de-nationalization of Haitian immigrants and their descendants, who are Dominicans by birth). One of the strengths of this book is, precisely, foregrounding how these 'bodies' and voices have contested these hegemonic narratives and their concrete, violent, effects. The history of conflict through the concrete and symbolic borders between the Dominican Republic-Haiti-US empire, are still areas of contention in the present, so this book is timely in its examination of that foundational context. In the process of deconstruction of what 'Dominicanness' means, García-Peña makes also significant contributions to researching and writing about the "tensions between history and literature," so prevalent in Latin America, and in the Caribbean region in particular. Besides the sharp content analysis of a diversity of sources, the book offers many theoretical disruptions and contributions to debates on national identity, Afro-Dominicanidad, [End Page 181] US empire role in national racial formations and racialized subject formation in Caribbean nations and in their diasporas, as well as translocal solidarity projects around Blackness, that are currently broadening the borders of the DR nation and of what it means to be 'Dominican.' This book is a good "bridge between Haitian and Dominican Studies," a nice reminder of the potential of Black Atlantic Studies, and the opening of new agendas for future "Hispaniola Studies."
This well-researched and written book examines a "genealogy of Dominicanidad" through the poetics and politics of its emergence—and transformations—through literary stories and historical records in the DR official archives and beyond. In the process of uncovering this genealogy, the author examines early national formations of DR and Haiti, as young nations sharing the same Caribbean island (Hispaniola), as how these processes were interrupted, first, by the two colonial empires of Spain and France, and later through the neocolonial relations with the US Nation-Empire since the 19th century. Going beyond the usual focus for these kinds of studies, which tend to foreground, on one side Haiti's frontal auto-proclamation as a Black republic, and on the other, the DR auto-proclamation of itself as a Hispanic nation, the author brings center-stage the huge elephant in the room: the role of the US empire in Hispaniola. In spite of the historical evidence "the long and unequal relationship between US and DR [is] relegated to a footnote to the margins of US archive" (3), even in studies of US empire in the 19th century. Hence, one of the promises that the book delivers is how it "brings Dominicanidad from the footnote to the center page, insisting on the impact of dictions on the national and racial identity of a people," to show—maybe not...