Come be my guest (or not): National Identity, Hospitality, and Construction of a Literary Genealogy of Haitian-Dominican Bordering Ideologies in Three Dominican Foundational Fictions
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Following its 1844 independence from Haiti, the Dominican Republic was faced with two questions: national identity and establishment of a border with its neighbor. These two questions fueled among the nation’s political and intellectual elite an immense nationalistic project, which many scholars connect to Trujillo’s 1937 massacre of 20,000 Haitians along the Haitian-Dominican border. This thesis closely analyzes three Dominican national allegories—Manuel de Jesús-Galván’s Enriquillo (1879), César-Nicolás Pensón’s “Las vírgenes de Galindó” (1891), and Tomás Hernández-Franco’s “Yelidá” (1941) in an attempt to construct a literary genealogy of the Haitian-Dominican border. Using theoretical contributions from primarily Doris Sommer, Jacques Derrida, Henk von Houtum, and Julia Kristeva, I explore themes such as identity and hospitality (who is/isn’t allowed in the nation’s space) and how such themes ground ideologies of Haitian-Dominican bordering. I argue firstly that Galván’s Enriquillo lays a cornerstone for Dominican-Haitian bordering ideologies by presenting the archetypal Dominican as a Hispanicized taino. This revisionism effectively welcomes Spanishness and aspirations to whiteness as elements of Dominican identity while simultaneously erasing the Dominican nation’s black elements. Such erasure imposes upon blacks and blackness a burden of unwelcomeness in Dominican national space, identity, and memory. As the post-Independence Dominican elite associated blackness exclusively with Haiti, this burden of unwelcomeness inherently includes Haitians. Cesar-Nicolas Pensón’s “Las vírgenes de Galindó”, read as both a national Edenic creation myth and a foundational allegory of bordering, partially elaborates on Galván’s ideas, casting the Dominican nation as a fundamentally white, Hispanic nation. However, Pensón delves further into the idea of Haitian unwelcomeness. I argue that Penson creates an alternative national history where the Dominican nation’s ideal, pre-fallen state is premised on closed doors (zero hospitality) towards the Haitian other. The nation’s fall thus occurs the moment it accidentally opens its doors, extending hospitality to the undesirable, dangerous Haitian other. This hospitality = Fall equation implies that in order to redeem itself, the Dominican nation must reverse its Fall by effectively re-closing its doors and “uninviting”—or revoking hospitality from—its unwelcome Haitian guests. Such uninviting is done through closing the national door, known also as the border. In the final chapter I use a Kristevian framework to analyze “Yelidá” as a counter-ideological text, a text of anti-bordering that challenges both Trujillo’s ideas of Dominican identity and his imagined “color border” between the white Dominican Republic and the black Haiti. By presenting the Dominican subject as a mulata—an inherently abject, black-white border-transgressing subject, he resuscitates the element of blackness in Dominican identity, nullifying the Haitian-Dominican “color border”. He also criticizes the Dominican nation’s aspirations to whiteness by portraying the white subject as anti-Dominican, for he possesses a fear of border transgression and debordering—the very elements that underlie Dominican mulato identity. Finally, I argue that Hernandez-Franco presents the mulato as a symbol of Dominican liberation from white colonialist systems of order, or as an emblem of freedom from what decolonial theorist Anibal Quijano calls the “colonization of the imagination of the dominated”. This text thus ultimately suggests that the imagined white-black color border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti must be torn down in order to fully embrace the decolonial freedom and autonomy found in a mulato Dominican identity. This study is among the first in the field of Dominican literary critiscism and border studies to propose a literary examination of the border. It thus contributes methodologically, providing an innovative, multifaceted theoretical framework from which future literary studies of the border can be performed. It also deepens the connection between nation and bordering in the Dominican Republic by incorporating a dimension of hospitality to discourses on national identity.
CitationMa, Vania (2017). Come be my guest (or not): National Identity, Hospitality, and Construction of a Literary Genealogy of Haitian-Dominican Bordering Ideologies in Three Dominican Foundational Fictions. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/14318.
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Rights for Collection: Undergraduate Honors Theses and Student papers