Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Donald Robotham

Committee Members

Herman Bennett

Ismael Garcia-Colon

Julie Skurski

Subject Categories

African American Studies | Environmental Studies | Latina/o Studies | Other American Studies | Social and Cultural Anthropology


disposession, dissent, tourism, state, race, displacement


My dissertation is a historical and ethnographic project that delves into the conflictive relationship between the development of the Dominican state and the formation of the community of the port city of Samaná. The African diasporic community of Samaná has actively constructed the local space throughout shifting political projects, while sustaining their collective voices against the waves of dispossession crashing on their shores. Using a combination of archival research, participant observation, oral history and ethnography, I document multiple instances of state intervention to understand how the Samaná community has been coerced over time to consent to these processes. I juxtapose the autonomous development of the Samaná littoral space to the formation of the Dominican state, which required the incorporation of this African Diasporic community into the national imaginary through forceful sociocultural, political, economic and infrastructural manipulations. This interdisciplinary project seeks to explore the contradictory ways the Dominican state represents itself, and excavate the economic and sociocultural practices of modern nation making that it engaged in so as to examine the concrete realities of the concept of ‘accumulation by dispossession’ in Samaná.

My ethnographic work engages with the unequal relationship between state actors and the population of the DR, which has led to the entrenchment of an authoritative mode of governance that disenfranchises and displaces many communities for the sake of continued accumulation of capital. I argue that this new round of capital circulation, spearheaded by the Dominican tourism economy, though presented as positive by the state and media, is increasingly displacing the members of the community of Samaná through the manipulation of land titles, the privatization of coastal lands and the dismantling and cooptation of civil society institutions. The residents of Samaná have learned to maneuver the multiple modalities of power present in the space and are deciphering new ways to intervene, create spaces of organizing and reclaim agency through a reengagement with local and regional history.