Analyzes textbooks in the Dominican Republic for evidence of reproducing Haitian Otherness
Unmastering the Script: Education, Critical Race Theory, and the Struggle to Reconcile the Haitian Other in Dominican Identity examines how school curriculum–based representations of Dominican identity navigate black racial identity, its relatedness to Haiti, and the culturally entrenched pejorative image of the Haitian Other in Dominican society. Wigginton and Middleton analyze how social science textbooks and historical biographies intended for young Dominicans reflect an increasing shift toward a clear and public inclusion of blackness in Dominican identity that serves to renegotiate the country’s long-standing antiblack racial master script.
The authors argue that although many of the attempts at this inclusion reflect a lessening of “black denial,” when considered as a whole, the materials often struggle to find a consistent and coherent narrative for the place of blackness within Dominican identity, particularly regarding the ways in which blackness continues to be meaningfully related to the otherness of Haitian racial identity. Unmastering the Script approaches the text materials as an example of “reconstructing” and “unburying” an African past, supporting the uneven, slow, and highly context-specific nature of the process.
This work engages with multiple disciplines including history, anthropology, education, and race studies, building on a new wave of Dominican scholarship that considers how contemporary perspectives of Dominican identity both accept the existence of an African past and seek to properly weigh its importance. The use of critical race theory as the framework facilitates unfolding the past political and legal agendas of governing elites in the Dominican Republic and also helps to unlock the nuance of an increasingly black-inclusive Dominican identity. In addition, this framework allows the unveiling of some of the socially damaging effects the Haitian Other master script can have on children, particularly those of Haitian ancestry, in the Dominican Republic.