This essay examines interpretations of the fragmentation of the Island of Hispaniola into the Dominican Republic and Haiti as a point of departure into the process by which national difference is constructed and reproduced as both a site of difference/alterity and as a co-constitutive counterpoint to identity formation and national founding. While the early historiography of Hispaniola offered a social constructivist revisionist account of fragmentation and nation state formation, it simultaneously sustained the notion of exceptionalism, reified elitist nationalist discourses of difference, and characterized Haitian-Dominican relations as an eternal antagonistic “cockfight” over the island. Drawing on a recent turn in the scholarship, the author argues that a transnational lens of polyrhythmic intra-action and tension has emerged—rather than a “cockfight”—that focus on entanglements, culture, and exchange within and beyond the two nations, providing opportunity to think about how Hispaniola is being (re)conceptualized and the political-intellectual labor that it performs.

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