Haiti/Dominican Republic

A Section of the Latin American Studies Association

Section Annual Report 2019

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.