Haiti/Dominican Republic

A Section of the Latin American Studies Association

Section Annual Reports


Haiti-Dominican Republic Section Report 2019-2020

1. LASA 2020 Business Meeting Notes Section Business Meeting commenced on May 15, 2020 at 7pm EDT.

The first order of business was the announcement of prizes (see below) and thanks to the members who served on the article, book and paper prize committees (Marisol Fonseca Malavasi, Carl Lindskoog, Elizabeth Manley, Christina Davidson, Scott Freeman, Toni Pressley-Sanon and Karen Richman).

Second order of business was the discussion of change of leadership. Elizabeth Manley and Karen Richman expressed gratitude and thanks for all the support from members over the past four years that they have served and indicated that it was a time for transition. They indicated that one member had been nominated for leadership, but that a second co-chair would be needed. In addition to Dannelle Guttara Cordero who had self-nominated, Kyrstin Mallon Andrews nominated Raj Chetty for the second co-chair position and he accepted the nomination. Ayanna Legros nominated herself for the new position of secretary, specifically with a focus on section expansion and graduate student support and engagement. The nominations were accepted; all three were elected by acclamation.

The business meeting concluded with an open discussion forum. Included topics were the possibility for a pre-LASA event in Vancouver, with member Arturo Victoriano volunteering to look into possibilities through his university, as well as continued opportunities to expand the section, the creation of a database of Haiti/DR scholars working in the field, the continued use of the section panel to highlight graduate student and junior scholar work, and the challenges and successes of teaching during the recent COVID-mandated transition to remote learning. It was decided that an additional meeting would be planned to continue the teaching and learning discussion. (Meeting held on May 28.)

Meeting adjourned at 8:45 EDT.

2. Newly Elected Leadership
Co-Chairs (2 year term)

Raj Chetty is associate professor in the English Department at St. John's University, specializing in Caribbean literature across English, Spanish, and French languages. He is at work on two projects. The first, On Refusal and Recognition: Disparate Blackness in Dominican Literary and Expressive Cultures, is under contract with SUNY Press's "Afro-Latinx Futures" series and studies the articulations between Dominican literary and expressive arts in the post-Trujillo period and conceptualizations of black and African diaspora. The second, The Entry of the Chorus: Performance Legacies of C. L. R. James’s The Black Jacobins is a study of C. L. R. James’s two plays about the Haitian Revolution and their theatrical afterlives, spanning the 1930s to the early 21st century.

Dannelle Gutarra Cordero is Lecturer in African American Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies at Princeton University. She earned a Ph.D. in History from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus in 2012 with a dissertation about the intellectual history of the Haitian Revolution. Gutarra Cordero has previously taught graduate and undergraduate courses at the Inter American University of Puerto Rico and Virginia Commonwealth University. She has also been a Visiting Fellow of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University, the Chair of the Postcolonial Humanities Working Group at Princeton, and the Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed academic journal Recreation and Society in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Secretary (2 year term)

Ayanna Legros is an educator and scholar committed to highlighting and uplifting the narratives and histories of Afro-descended peoples, particularly those of the Haitian people. As a Haitian-American born and raised in New York City and the daughter of two migrant activists, she was inspired to pursue a PhD in History at Duke University in order to document, interpret, and contribute to histories of the Haitian people in the United States. Her PhD project entitled, Echoes in Exile: Haitian Radio and Transnational Activism in the United States, examines the political significance of radio in crafting a diasporic sense of belonging for Haitians between the 1960s – 2000s. She has been awarded fellowships and awards from Duke University, Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, Haiti Cultural Exchange, New York University, Northwestern University, Haitian Studies Association, Society for the History of Technology, and the Ford Foundation. She believes that research, writing, museum education, and public programming about the lived experiences of migrants will lead to a more empathetic world. Legros has collaborated with Library of Congress Radio Preservation Task Force, Museum of Modern Art, Nasher Museum of Art, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (New York Public Library), WBAI 99.5FM radio, and more. She received a Bachelor of Arts (Honors) from Northwestern University in African American Studies and International Studies and a Master of Arts in Africana Studies from New York University.

3. Plans for 2020-2021

A meeting for transition of leadership has been planned in early July to pass along section institutional knowledge, files, and ideas for continued advancement. Formal decisions regarding upcoming events and activities will be made by the incoming leadership, although will likely include plans for LASA 2021 as well as continued efforts to expand the section and support graduate and junior scholar work.

4. Awards
Isis Duarte Book Prize


Jeffrey S. Kahn, Islands of Sovereignty: Haitian Migration and the Borders of Empire (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2019).

Islands of Sovereignty by Jeffrey S. Kahn reveals how the U.S. government’s policing of migration from Haiti expanded the U.S. border, remade the Caribbean, and transformed the nation-state itself. Employing an impressive combination of ethnographic and historical research methods, Kahn locates the origin of the now widely-used practice of extraterritorial migration control in the U.S. interdiction of Haitian migrants and shows how the legal struggles around this policy tested competing tendencies at the very core of liberal constitutionalism. The result, Kahn reveals, was a new border, new geographies, and a spatially-reconfigured nation-state, the impact of which has been felt in Haiti, the Caribbean, the United States, and throughout the world. Kahn’s findings represent a major contribution to an interdisciplinary conversation at the intersection of anthropology, legal theory, geography, political philosophy, and history.

Honorable Mention:

Brandon R. Byrd, The Black Republic; African Americans and the Fate of Haiti (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019).

The Isis Duarte book prize committee commends the work of Brandon R. Byrd in the 2019 publication The Black Republic. Beautifully written, the book serves as a reminder of the critical place of Haiti in so many of the important conversations circulating in the Black Atlantic across the 20th century. A narrative that unfolds clearly and yet with crucial nuance, this work of intellectual history serves as a key reminder of the deep roots of Black anti-imperialism and the many, even conflicted, ways Haiti has served as a symbol of freedom and liberation in the modern era.

Section Article Prize


Anne Eller, Raining Blood: Spiritual Power, Gendered Violence, and Anticolonial Lives in the Nineteenth-Century Dominican Borderlands (Hispanic American Historical Review)

The award winning article is an exciting demonstration of transnational perspective and scholarship on the island. It brings forward an astounding array of sources that reveal the center-island borderlands in the late 19th century to be a remarkable space of fugitive activity, and challenges the geographic and epistemological boundaries of the two nation states. Eller's focus on the spiritually grounded defense of autonomy, moreover, offers new ways of thinking about political authority in Latin American and the Caribbean that privileges the voices and perspectives of peasants and rebel leaders. We commend this article for both its breathtaking archival scope and analysis and theoretical innovation.

Honorable Mention

Maria Cecilia Ulrickson, honorable mention for Cultivators, Domestics, and Slaves: Slavery in Santo Domingo Under Louverture and Napolean, 1801-1803 (The Americas)

An honorable mention is awarded to Ulrickson's "Cultivators, Domestics and Slaves." Using notarial and ecclesiastical archives, Ulrickson charts how slaveholding and slave trading transformed under the influence of Louverture and Napoleon, and argues that slave owners created hidden slave markets and invented new ways of masking old forms of bondage. Thus, emancipation did not come suddenly to enslaved people on Hispaniola, but instead developed as a series of negotiations, contestations, and shifts that played out over time. In challenging how emancipation is conceptualized, this article will undoubtedly impact the scholarship on slavery and emancipation beyond Haitian and Dominican Studies.

Guy Alexandre Paper Prize (for a paper presented at the 2019 LASA conference in Boston)


Nancy Kang for “Ciguapismo: Rhina Espaillat’s Feminist Hermeneutics of Loss.”

The point of departure for Nancy Kang’s innovative paper is Espaillat’s characterization of her work of translation, not just between languages but also between home and diaspora, as “writing in reverse.” Kang interprets the poet’s statement in light of the image of la ciguapa, the mythic female figure whose backwards feet enable her to travel across borders of time and space. Especially when writing about Dominican women, Kang argues, Espaillat engages in an epistemology of ciguapismo, which Kang defines as“an interpretive faculty, an imaginative resource, and a humane impulse to excavate the mythic and world-building capacities of Dominican and Dominican diaspora women, aquí y allá.” Kang’s persuasive analysis is bolstered by her careful reading of the great poet’s oeuvre and interviews with the wise humanitarian, who is 88 years young now), and comparative scholarship on the metaphor of la ciguapa, not the least of which is found in the journal publication that won the section article prize two years ago by Ginetta Candelario.

Honorable Mention

Julie Sellers “From Radio Guarachita to El Tieto eShow: Bachata’s Imagined Communities.”

In this richly documented paper, Julie Sellers applies Benedict Anderson’s theory and scholarship on new, digital media to extend her unique scholarship on Dominican popular music, including her most recent (2017) book, The Modern Bachateros. Sellers elucidates the context and characteristics of the humble, melancholic bachata genre and the working class radio program that promoted it on the periphery of the centers of musical authority in the Dominican Republic. These slantwise assets were an ideal foundation for the successful reinvention of the radio program by means of creative appropriation of new media, into an online, diasporic show.


By: Elizabeth Manley and Karen Richman, 5/31/2019

Meeting commenced at 12:35pm

Karen Richman and Elizabeth Manley welcomed all present and invited members to voice their concerns and desires for the section in the coming year(s).

Samuel Martinez opened the conversation, wondering how we might continue the model created by the Global Dominicanidades Conference (held on 5/23/2019 at Harvard) into future, with particular attention to its mentorship component.

Carlos Decena followed up on this issue of mentoring and growth by expressing both gratitude for the section and concern for the future. He noted the official section panel and queried if LASA is the right home for what we do as scholars of Hispaniola, particularly as it pertains to Afro-Caribbean issues. He suggested that while there is some marginalization happening, the structure of LASA also has considerable resources that would be extremely useful to us as scholars and as a community. In other words, that it was worth growing the section in order to take advantage of these resources, even if we continue to struggle with feeling at the edges of LASA. He also suggested creating more synergies with the Transnational Hispaniola collective through CSA, specifically alternating pre-conference activities between CSA and LASA. Finally, he noted that he could commit to running for a 2020-2021 co-chair position.

Cristina Davidson joined the discussion, noting that she found the considerable presence of Dominicanists at LASA this year (and in previous years) eye-opening. Like Carlos, she asked how we continue to work across the border of Haiti and DR and truly engage with a transnational Hispaniola model via LASA. She noted that the key tension in our work as a section was with that cross-island engagement, and suggested perhaps a H-NET network on Hispaniola as a way to increase communication. Or, alternately, creating an H-DR and linking it with already existing H-Haiti. She also suggested using technology to engage more scholars in the LASA conference, and generally taking advantage of online spaces for more effective communication.

Discussion continued relative to how to effectively incorporate a transnational Hispaniola model across institutional groups (LASA, CSA, etc.) and in our work. Decena noted that our presence here (at LASA, in panels, etc.) was an important first step; Davidson stressed also the significance of the section awards, particular for junior scholars and she strongly encouraged everyone to consider submitting their work in the section prize competitions. Raj Chetty suggested perhaps an every-other-year engagement with the Transnational Hispaniola collective. Decena argued that we needed to think about a transmission venue for the work engaged with the section panel. Discussion of the possible use of H-NET continued, with comment from Richman and Alexa Rodríguez.

Kyrstin Mallon Andrews joined the conversation to argue that we all need to work on proposing panels that specifically bring in Haitian scholars. She noted that we should reach out in some manner to Haitian scholars to make them aware of this section and the work we do. She also made a plea for more interdisciplinary panels and more anthropological voices. Chetty noted the media interest in Haitian American Ayanna Legros’ statement explaining why she identifies as an Afro-Latina, and Davidson offered that a panel on Afro-Latinidad (in the context of Hispaniola) could be a possible official selection. She also suggested Sophie Mariñez for the panel (in addition to Legros). A number of people in the group agreed that Haitianists are often not interested in LASA for a number of current and historic reasons, but many also agreed it was worth making the effort, particularly among the younger scholars coming up. Richman agreed, noting that she sees herself as a Latin Americanist.

Manley then asked what the younger scholars need and want from LASA and the section. Mentorship was clearly one of the most important things discussed by the members present. Also suggested were a pre-circulated paper workshop (pre-LASA or during), more feedback on work in progress, a welcoming and nurturing community / community building, and state-of-the-field reports. Decena then suggested doing a pre-conference with a workshop structure and a state of the field plenary. Someone suggested April Mayes as a possible person to foster a “state of the field” discussion. Decena also queried how such a pre-conference might be done with an explicit engagement with HSA. Richman mentioned that the HSA annual conference has always been open and welcoming to Dominicanists and was going to be held in Gainesville this year (October 2019), focused on climate and environment. Raj Chetty also mentioned ASWAD as a possible venue. All agreed that strong mentorship would be most beneficial to growing and strengthening the field.

Davidson offered an intervention, noting that again the conversation had strayed toward Dominicanist issues (partially because of the composition in the room) and that the group was no longer talking about Haiti and cross-border analysis. She argued that there were in fact two tensions – one would be growing Dominican Studies as a field (DS as “still becoming”) and the other the cross – field discussions with Haitian Studies. She exhorted us to be attentive to both tensions. Discussion continued about possibly using an online forum to build and continue these discussions of studies across Hispaniola.

Decena suggested the possibility of a “speed-dating” academic version (for research interests specifically) as a possible pre-conference workshop activity. Médar Serrata added that the workshop should also integrate scholars at all levels working on new scholarship. All agreed with the importance of increasing the disciplinary diversity of the group of scholars represented at any future events (particularly as noted by undergraduate student MacKenzie Isaac), as well as the need to work across disciplines. Rodríguez reminded the group of the availability of LASA travel grants (for Guadalajara); the section also might focus on raising funds for travel. A few minutes of discussion focused on dissemination of information via social media to expand membership. Members agreed that a committee for strategic planning for the section would be most useful moving forward and several indicated willingness to serve in such a capacity.

Richman and Manley indicated that they were willing to each serve for one more year as co-chairs. Present members supported the candidates for co-chair with unanimous acclamation. Richman and Manley thanked present members and indicated that their plan for post-conference actions would be to email all current, past and future section members with notes about the following:

1) call for leadership for next year;

2) constructing of a Strategic Plan committee;

3) soliciting input for committee work;

4) creation of an H-NET (possibly H-GlobalHispaniola) or other forum for the section; and

5) assessing interest in Guadalajara (LASA 2020) and plans for official section panel, other panels and pre-conference event.

Meeting adjourned at 1:50 pm.