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IRADAC Works in Progress - Yadira Perez

APR 25, 2014 | 4:00 PM TO 6:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue
ARC Conference Room - 5318


April 25, 2014: 4:00 PM-6:00 PM







"Racial Landscaping of the Frontier: The Physical and Discursive fortification of land and space in Dominican Republic"

Yadira Perez
Assisatnt Professor
Borough of Manhattan Community College

There is growing scholarship on racialized landscaping that builds on seminal work illuminating the relationship between land and nation and has convincingly established the human role in creating racialized landscapes. In the Dominican Republic (DR), the nation-building project of the Trujillo government aimed to modernize the nation through a variety of racial projects such as removing black bodies (Haitian massacre and relocation), establishing the national identity of border lands and residents and increasing the presence of non-black bodies, such as the Japanese immigrant settlement. This paper examines the Dominican Republic’s attempt at transforming border lands from “tierra mala (bad land)” to “tierra buena (good land).” This paper examines how local Dominican and Japanese immigrant associations of race and land at times challenged racist nation-building discourses and settlement practices and other times reinforced it.

Thus, this paper proceeds by outlining the landscaping practices of the colonial and nation-building period of Hispaniola in order to understand how la frontera (border) became the focal point of blackness. To understand this fully, a closer look at western conceptions of land, property and nation are outlined focusing on how Trujillo manipulated these conceptions to justify demographic and physical transformation of la frontera. The physical change of the landscape was completed with the settlement of Japanese immigrants and relocated “light-skinned” Dominicans who were coerced to use the land in ways associated with modernity and whiteness. Plots of land were given as gifts of property to the Japanese, with the hopes that this gift to “non-black” persons would elevate the land and nation’s value and simultaneously confer to the inhabitant’s higher status. This paper places the history of the Japanese immigrants in DR within the context of western conceptions and practices of blanqueamiento (whiteness) and national discourses of Dominicanness, calling attention to the linkages between the Pacific and Atlantic in discussions of race and diaspora.