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.
From “Cockfight” to Polyrhythm: Writing Difference on the Island of Hispaniola
Paul Emiljanowicz is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at McMaster University, finishing his dissertation on the tensions, ambiguities, and contestations between competing visions of Pan-Africanism and the “future” in 1960s anticolonial thought. His research is focused on the conceptualizations and politics of non-Western modernities, legacies of colonialisms, decoloniality, and questions of historiography. His work has appeared in Time and Society (2017) and Interventions (forthcoming).
Paul Emiljanowicz; From “Cockfight” to Polyrhythm: Writing Difference on the Island of Hispaniola. Small Axe 1 March 2019; 23 (1 (58)): 35–50. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-7374430
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