The dialectic of blackness and full citizenship : a case study of Haitian migration to the Dominican Republic

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Date

2016-05

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Romain, Jheison Vladimir

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Abstract

In 2015 the Dominican Republic enforced a series of measures to expel undocumented Haitian immigrants and unregistered Dominicans of Haitian descent. As a result, thousands of people of Haitian descent became "illegal", deportable subjects forced to either return to Haiti or live in hiding in the Dominican Republic. This thesis presents a theoretical and ethnographic reflection on this most recent citizenship crisis between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Migration carried out despite legal restrictions can be considered a modern form of resistance against racialized and historically defined social structures that disproportionately affect impoverished black people of Haitian descent. How have restrictions on migration and immigration gradually crystallized the lives of black people as less valuable than those of whites and others who fit-in with white, Eurocentric values? During a time in which international migration has gained a great deal of worldwide prominence, the question of citizenship and belonging for people of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic is a window that provides insights into the politics of illegality that have been mobilized to justify the abuse and even the killing of people who have violated established rules of border crossing. Grounded in ethnographic research carried out in the Dominican Republic and Haiti from May to July of 2015, this thesis draws on the work of Sylvia Wynter (2007), Charles W. Mills (1999), and John Rawls (1971) to contemplate the ways in which the social and economic exclusion of black people of Haitian descent has been historically promoted and justified. Further, engaging the theories of Aviva Chomsky (2004), Abdias do Nascimento (1980) and Neil Roberts (2015), the thesis argues that undocumented migration is 21st century marronage – a mode of resistance, through flight, against oppressive socio-economic structures.

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