Spirals in the Caribbean responds to key questions elicited by the human rights crisis sparked in 2013 when the Dominican Constitutional Court’s Ruling 168-13 denationalized hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent effective retroactively to 1929. Challenging the “fatal conflict” paradigm dominating views of the relations between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, it argues that this paradigm serves to mask lingering troubles resulting from the Haitian Revolution—a conflict between slavers and freedom-seekers transmitted over generations, repeating with a difference over time, and hiding behind anti-Haitian nationalist rhetoric.
Taking as central material the literature, history, and cultural artifacts of both nations, Sophie Maríñez explores the colonial and imperial legacies of violence and subsequent connections across the island through the framework of the Spiral, a concept at the core of Spiralism, a Haitian literary aesthetic developed in the 1960s. The structure of the Spiral, which insists on interrelations, free association of ideas, and repetitions with meanings that overlap, turning around one central idea, serves as a framework for this book, where each chapter functions as a case study on three foundational episodes of violence. The first two episodes mirror and oppose one another: whereas one leads to pride and exultation—the Haitian Revolution—the other—the 1937 genocide perpetrated by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo against the borderland population—elicits sorrow and shame. Their sequels, however, drive through and fasten history like a DNA double helix. The third episode of violence is chronologically the first—the massacre of indigenous populations by the Conquistadors.
Across four chapters, Spirals in the Caribbean explores representations of these foundational moments of violence and subsequent connections in constitutional legislations, private and official letters, oral traditions, collective memories, Afro-indigenous spiritual and musical practices, and works of fiction, plays, and poetry produced across the island and its diasporas from 1791 to 2002.
Sophie Maríñez is a Professor of Modern Languages and Literature at the Borough of Manhattan Community College and an affiliated Professor of French and Francophone Studies in the Ph.D. Program in French at The Graduate Center.