Dominicanidad in Contradiction
During my first semester of graduate school at the University of Michigan,
I attended a gathering aimed at connecting graduate students of color with
university resources. Upon hearing me speak Spanish to a friend, a professor
asked where I was from. Understanding he was not interested in my New
Jersey upbringing, but rather in figuring out the origins of my ethnicity and
Spanish- speaking abilities, I told him I was born in the Dominican Republic.
The professor smiled and said to me: “Ah, dominicana! I love your country!
Good rum and cheap whores!” I excused myself and abandoned the gath-
As I walked home that night my body shook with a combination of anger,
indignation, and confusion. Why did the professor think it appropriate to
refer to my birth country in such aggressive terms? What logic made it pos-
sible for him to associate me, a doctoral student, with his hedonistic esca-
pades to the tropics? The dynamics at play in the professor’s diction are foun-
dational to some of the basic questions this book raises.
Given my scholarly training and my preoccupation with the production
of dominicanidad at home and abroad, the encounter with the professor
prompted a more urgent questioning of the multiple ways in which silences
and repetitions operate in the erasure of racialized Dominican subjects from
the nation and its archive. Those silences, as my encounter with the professor
shows, are then filled with fantasies that reflect colonial desires and fears.1
Through a colonizing gaze, the professor replaced my (Dominican) sub-
jectivity with the symbolic tropes of colonial desire: “good rum and cheap
whores.” Yet as I reflect on what is still a very troubling encounter, I recog-
nize that my body, by its mere positioning within the academic space, also
interrupted the professor’s “knowledge” of dominicanidad.
In many ways, this book is a project of recovering and historicizing
knowledge interruptions through what I call contradictions, “dictions”—sto-