"An important contribution to the study of Dominican society and the complex dynamics of race relations in an island historically inhabited by people of different cultures and racial backgrounds."
—Latin American Studies
In few countries are concepts of race and colour as important or controversial as in the Dominican Republic. Sharing the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti, the country has coexisted uneasily with its predominantly African-descended neighbour since independence in the nineteenth-century. That independence and the country’s national identity are rooted in the belief that the country is somehow different from and superior to Haiti. Race plays a key role in the construction of Dominican society and politics, as the official ideology defines the nation’s characteristics as ‘white’, European and Catholic. Colouring the Nation explores the significance of racial theorizing in Dominican society and its manifestations in everyday life. Drawing on extensive interviews in three contrasting neighbourhoods (a high-income Santo Domingo suburb, a poor barrio in the capital, and a rural community), David Howard examines how ideas of skin colour and racial identity influence a wide spectrum of Dominicans in how they view themselves and their Haitian neighbours. The book also considers the background to Dominican-Haitian relations, looking back to a turbulent colonial past and a recent history marked by dictatorship and violence. Surveying Dominican writing on race, both political and fictional, it presents a comprehensive picture of how attitudes are ‘coloured’ by proximity to Haiti and its alleged backwardness. Colouring the Nation explains how race has impacted on recent Dominican politics and obstructed the development of more positive relations between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. It outlines existing theories of race and ethnicity, exploring their applicability to the Dominican context and finally suggests that a popular concept of multiculturalism could provide a starting point for effective anti-racist policies in the Dominican Republic. “David Howard’s book on race and ethnicity in the Dominican Republic fills an important gap, in English, on the social structure of one of the least-known Caribbean countries. The work is particularly important because it transcends the author’s detailed case studies to give a national picture of the relationship between race, colour and ethnicity. The involvement of race with emigration and identity, modern literature and politics is imaginatively explored, and the author shows that a mythologized “Indian” identity is commonly adopted across the social spectrum to avoid an association with all that is black in Dominican life.” Colin Clarke, Professor of Urban and Social Geography, University of Oxford. David Howard is a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of Dominican Republic in Focus (Latin America Bureau, 1999).
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