Haitian migrants in Dominican Republic

By Kiran Jayaram*


My doctoral research examined the experiences of Haitian educational and labor migrants to the Dominican Republic.  I chose to study two distinct populations–Haitian university students and workers—in order to examine how class mediates migration experiences. More specifically, I considered how migrants live and understand their specific engagements with the state, market, and society across differences in race, class, gender, and citizenship.  Their actual experiences of incorporation belie neoliberal understandings that would posit a neat alignment of their lives along a vector indexing the market value of their skills. So, for example, in my article titled “Capital Changes,” published in Caribbean Quarterly, I challenge “the myth of Haitian homogeneity” and show how changes in the Dominican economy have provoked shifts in the migration flow, influenced the labor market insertion of Haitian immigrants, and incited changes in anti- Haitian sentiments in the Dominican Republic.

While my primary focus while enrolled at TC was completing my Ph.D., I engaged in several supplemental activities.  Since 2008, I have continued to work for the Workers Rights Consortium regarding issues of Haitian factory workers on the Dominican border.  After the 2010 earthquake, I was hired by the Earth Institute to conduct preliminary research for a major development project and to write a report on land tenure in post-earthquake Haiti (historical, legal, anthropological, conflict resolution, governmental, etc).

Upon returning from the field, I started other activities.  I began teaching an introductory cultural anthropology class and a survey course on world cultures.  Most significantly, I worked with the State University of Haiti’s Faculté d’Ethnologie and my TC colleague Scott Freeman to submit and secure a Wenner-Gren Institutional Development Grant to build a doctoral program of anthropology in Haiti.  Primary international partners are Teachers College and the University of Kansas, but we also have support of faculty from Harvard, Northern Illinois University, the University of Costa Rica, and other educational institutions across the globe.

Currently, I am working with an Amazonianist colleague to develop an NSF grant proposal for urgent research among Haitians living on the Peru-Brazil border.  Undertaking this project is absolutely dependent upon my ability to secure funding before August 2014.  In any case, my next research project, which I submitted as a Fulbright Flex Grant proposal for three years of short-term funding, concerns the economic, social, and cultural consequences of post-earthquake export mango production for Haitian cultivators.  In the more distant future, I will pick up the theme of the dissertation project that originally led me to study at TC:  the political economy and ideologies of literacy and numeracy in Haiti.

Kiran Jayaram is a PhD. Student in the Applied Anthropology Program at Teachers College, Columbia University