Dominican identity in flux : media consumption, negotiation, and Afro-Caribbean subjectivity in the U.S.

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2015-05

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This dissertation uses U.S. media as a lens to interpret the identity negotiation practices among Dominican-Americans and Dominicans living in the U.S. in the struggle to maintain an identification that is distinct from both pan-ethnic latinidad and blackness. Not appropriately hailed by either category, those that are of both Latino and African heritages must attempt to negotiate and position themselves within racialized discourses that place “Black” and “Latino” as mutually exclusive categories, discourses that simultaneously privilege these categories above other forms of identification that would be more salient for U.S. Dominican communities, namely nationality or cultural heritage. As a result, those with a Dominican/Dominican-American subjectivity are challenged to find representations that reflect their racial, ethnic, and national identities, often negotiating an identification with images that do not accommodate their regularly ignored dominicanidad. Therefore, my dissertation is framed by the question: what are the ways Dominicans navigate U.S. mediated and discursive landscapes of identity and how are they negotiating U.S. media and the representations they include?
Through a combination of traditional fieldwork conducted in New York City, a critical cultural study, and internet reception study, this dissertation seeks to give voice to those who are experiencing identity in flux. Not only does such a project address a U.S. population that is often ignored and marginalized within the scholarly literature, it attempts to complicate identity negotiation processes within the U.S. more broadly. Rooted in the contention that dominicanidad is uniquely positioned to potentially challenge U.S. hegemonic racial ideology, my dissertation will provide two critical interventions into the field of Latina/o Media Studies: (1) it offers an exploration of the mediated representation and discourses contributing to a highly negotiated process of identification among Dominicans and Dominican-Americans, and (2) it reveals a more intimate and contested relationship between blackness and latinidad based on how they are imbedded within articulations of dominicanidad. Ultimately, my project illuminates how the negotiated usage of various media (such as television, films, and websites) by Dominicans in the U.S. plays a significant role within a fluctuating understanding of dominicanidad.

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