This paper offers some preliminary reflections on the relationship between law, race, and nation building during the Haitian unification period. My contention is that, while the Haitian occupation can be described as a domination of Santo Domingo, it is also possible to discern some important ways in which Dominicans benefited from this relationship. More importantly, I suggest that there are some important moments where Dominicans participate in the Haitian nation building process. This paper also draws on a critical reading of Fernando Ortiz's notion of legal transculturation as articulated in his book, Cuban Counterpoint, to reflect on the multiple clashes of legal cultures in the eastern part of the island during this period. My contention is that the unification period can be understood as a contested terrain where Haitian and Dominican political, social, and economic interests were continuously clashing and constituting a new national narrative. In a sense, the law became an ideological arena that mediated the clash of multiple traditions and interests. Drawing on Ortiz's notion of legal transculturation as an expression of nation building, I specifically look at the relationship between competing narratives of race, citizenship, and property ownership and constitutional narratives of nation building. As I do so, however, I am also recognizing that the Constitution of 1816 was transplanted to the eastern part of the island, and that it would not be until 1843 that the residents of the former Santo Domingo would participate in shaping a new national legal narrative.


Symposium: Eighth Annual LatCrit Conference City & The Citizen: Operations of Power, Strategies of Resistance: Section I: City and Citizenship: Between and Beyond the Nation State