Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Peter L. Manuel

Subject Categories

Ethnic Studies | Latin American Languages and Societies | Latin American Studies | Music


Dominican Republic, identity, Music, race, religion, Vudú


My dissertation analyzes Dominican racial and ethnic identity through an examination of music and music cultures. Previous studies of Dominican identity have focused primarily on the racialized invention of the Dominican nation as white, or non-black, often centering on the building of Dominican identity in (sometimes violent) opposition to the Haitian nation and to Haitian racial identity. I argue that although Dominicans have not developed an explicit verbal discourse of black affirmation, blackness (albeit a contextually contingent articulation) is embedded in popular conceptions of dominicanidad ("Dominicanness") and is enacted through music. My dissertation explores ways in which popular notions of dominicanidad are negotiated and ways in which they align with or diverge from official elite notions of national identity, particularly in relation to blackness. By analyzing the evolution of Afro-Dominican genres of music in the last half of the twentieth century and by studying urban pro-black social movements, I reveal a more complex Dominican identity than has generally been acknowledged. For example, I explore the movement of previously marginalized Afro-Dominican music (e.g., the music of Vudú) from strictly rural and ceremonial settings to more urban locations and even into dance clubs as a form of popular music, in the process changing the practice of defining ethnic and religious identities. Other chapters explore recent urban music influenced by hip-hop and Jamaican dancehall, which has vindicated an emerging--if still somewhat controversial--positive Dominican attitude towards blackness.