Synopses & Reviews
Black behind the Ears
is an innovative historical and ethnographic examination of Dominican identity formation in the Dominican Republic and the United States. For much of the Dominican Republicandrsquo;s history, the national body has been defined as andldquo;not black,andrdquo; even as black ancestry has been grudgingly acknowledged. Rejecting simplistic explanations, Ginetta E. B. Candelario suggests that it is not a desire for whiteness that guides Dominican identity discourses and displays. Instead, it is an ideal norm of what it means to be both indigenous to the Republic (indios
) and andldquo;Hispanic.andrdquo; Both indigeneity and Hispanicity have operated as vehicles for asserting Dominican sovereignty in the context of the historically triangulated dynamics of Spanish colonialism, Haitian unification efforts, and U.S. imperialism. Candelario shows how the legacy of that history is manifest in contemporary Dominican identity discourses and displays, whether in the national historiography, the national museumandrsquo;s exhibits, or ideas about womenandrsquo;s beauty. Dominican beauty culture is crucial to efforts to identify as andldquo;indiosandrdquo; because, as an easily altered bodily feature, hair texture trumps skin color, facial features, and ancestry in defining Dominicans as indios.
Candelario draws on her participant observation in a Dominican beauty shop in Washington Heights, a New York City neighborhood with the oldest and largest Dominican community outside the Republic, and on interviews with Dominicans in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Santo Domingo. She also analyzes museum archives and displays in the Museo del Hombre Dominicano and the Smithsonian Institution as well as nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century European and American travel narratives.
andldquo;Black behind the Ears makes important contributions to our understanding of the Dominican experience. In this book, Ginetta E. B. Candelario shows processes of identity formation among Dominicans in different historical and geographical contexts, and she looks at the nuanced relationship between ethnic and racial identities. In my opinion, this is one of the best books written on the subject of racial, ethnic, and national identity formation in general.andrdquo;andmdash;Josandeacute; Itzigsohn, author of Developing Poverty: The State, Labor Market Regulation, and the Informal Economy in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic
andldquo;Ginetta E. B. Candelarioandrsquo;s Black behind the Ears argues compellingly that any serious effort to understand Dominican ideas and practices of race in the ancestral homeland as well as in the diaspora requires a large conceptual framework, a triangular geography of knowledge, and a cultural history formed by Dominican nation-building projects, the difficult plight of the Haitian Republic in the midst of a negrophobic world, the impact of U.S. racial thought, and the Latin American glorification of the Hispanic heritage. Candelarioandrsquo;s book remarkably dares to bring apparently disparate discursive sites to interact convincingly and engagingly in her analysis. The author renders facile readings of the Dominican chapter of the black experience in the Americas as exceptional or pathological simply unsustainable. She shows instead that it invites White Americans, African Americans, and other Latinos to revisit long-held assumptions about racial categories, ethnic identity, nationality, and the ideologies behind taking the andlsquo;visibleandrsquo; for andlsquo;realandrsquo; in matters of race.andrdquo;andmdash;Silvio Torres-Saillant, coauthor of The Dominican Americans
andldquo;Based on first-rate ethnographic and historical research, Black behind the Ears provides fresh and original insights into the construction and representation of racial identities in the Dominican Republic and the United States. It is the most comprehensive, focused, and balanced treatment to date of Dominican racial and gender ideologies in the United States.andrdquo;andmdash;Jorge Duany, author of The Puerto Rican Nation on the Move: Identities on the Island and in the United States
andldquo;Black behind the Ears is a fascinating, richly documented, and innovative exploration of racial, ethnic and national identity formation in the Dominican Republic and among the Dominican diaspora in the United States. . . . In exploring the paradoxes of Dominican ethno-racial identity so creatively, Candelario has produced a fascinating template for scholars and students of race, ethnicity and national identity in general.andrdquo;
andldquo;[A] stimulating book. . . . Candelario breaks new ground with her analysis of racial formation in Dominican communities in the United States . . . . [Black Behind the Ears] should be widely read by historians, anthropologists, and sociologists in the fields of Latin American and Latina/o studies.andrdquo;
andldquo;[G]roundbreaking. . . . Black Behind the Ears is a well-researched analysis of the cultural sites through which various actors produce racial understandings in relation to national discourses. It is an important contribution to the study of race, gender and national identity within the Dominican Republic and its US-based migrant communities.andrdquo;
An exploration of Dominican identity formation in the Dominican Republic and the United States. Examines how their definition of race, especially as seen in hair texture, was influenced by U.S. imperialism in the early 19th century through today.
An innovative historical and ethnographic examination of Dominican identity formation in the Dominican Republic and the United States.
About the Author
Ginetta E. B. Candelario is Associate Professor of Sociology and Latin American and Latina/o Studies at Smith College.
Table of Contents
Figures and Tables ix
Introduction. andquot;We Declare That We Are Indiansandquot;: Dominican Identity Displays and Discourses in Travel Writing, Museums, Beauty Shops, and Bodies 1
1. andquot;It Is Said That Haiti Is Getting Blacker and Blackerandquot;: Traveling Narratives of Dominican Identity 35
2. andquot;The Africans have No [Public] Historyandquot;: The Museo del Hombre Dominicano and Indigenous Displays of Dominican Identity 83
3. andquot;I Could Go the African American Routeandquot;: Dominicans in the Black Mosaic of Washington, D.C. 129
4. andquot;They Are Taken into Account for Their Opinionsandquot;: Making Community and Displaying Identity at a Dominican Beauty Shop in New York City 177
5. andquot;Black Women are Confusing, but the Hair Lets You Knowandquot;: Perceiving the Boundaries of Dominicanidad 223
Conclusion: andquot;Black Behind the Ears, and Up Front, Tooandquot;: Ideological Code Switching and Ambiguity in Dominican Identities 256