Appointed As

Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality


ACLS Emerging Voices Fellowships program


Johns Hopkins University

PhD Field of Study

PhD, Anthropology, New York University

Dissertation Abstract

"Recognizing Blackness: Grassroots Human Rights Activism Against Racism in the Dominican Republic"

In 2013, by claiming that the children of undocumented Haitian migrants were not entitled to birthright citizenship, the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling 168-13, commonly known as la sentencia, denationalized more than 200,000 Black Dominicans of Haitian descent, rendering them stateless. La Sentencia cemented a decades long process of denying darker skinned “Haitian looking” individuals the right to vote, work, legally wed, or purchase homes.
Through archival research, audio recorded interviews and participant observation in grassroots human rights trainings, as well as key meetings with diasporic, regional and international human rights institutions, I explore how blackness and Black identities are produced, employed and transformed through everyday encounters among activists who seek to build a large-scale transnational human rights movement against racism. In this transnational, collaborative work, however, contradictions arise, which raise important questions about how human rights’ universal categories of race potentially undermine the particularities of how race, Blackness and racism are manifested at a grassroots level.
I ask: How are Dominican activists of Haitian descent translating global understandings of blackness and anti-Black racism in order to address the particularities of their communities in which racial discrimination, gender and blackness, become conduits for the denial of citizenship? Through an analysis of’s activism this project highlights the limitations of human rights as a legal and discursive framework in the development of emancipatory projects focused on Black liberation. Grassroots activists, however, continue to engage with human rights, as a discursive framework that allows for imaginative processes in which other “lifeworlds” and conceptualizations of humanity emerge. By examining how Dominican activists of Haitian descent are mobilizing human rights and providing new symbolic meaning to Blackness beyond their geographical limitations, my dissertation highlights how human rights activists’ negotiation of the conditions of their everyday lives and work provides new ways of imagining global social justice as ideology and practice.