Fields of Study: Latin America, Political Thought, Print Culture
Advisor: Jeremy Adelman
Music and history are my sources of inspiration, and perhaps work together to form what I call a dialectic of passion. After many years of working as a musician of Afro-Caribbean music in New York, I decided to go back to school. Music had indeed developed my intellectual creativity, but something was missing. Just when I thought that my musical craft was enough to fulfill my intellectual appetite, the abysmal feeling of selfhood struck me. Here I was, enjoying the internal and subjective experience of music-making, yet oblivious to its inherent inter-subjectivity and the wealth of experience behind the transmission of style. If one makes music through individual sensibilities, one also plays with and learns from other people. Music, like people in society, navigates these two realms, the experience of the self, and the experience of inter-subjectivity.
Simple as it may be, this basic insight guides my intellectual interests. This combination of factors (subjectivity and inter-subjectivity) together with change is what gives power to the writing of history, for if it is true that people make sense of the world at the individual and collective levels, it is also true that those very categories through which we understand the world are subject to manipulation and modification. The power of history becomes most evident when our “natural” and basic assumptions are revealed as historicizable. My academic work, I hope, will attempt to de-naturalize our overly hubirstic sense of epistemic security.
Continuing my undergraduate senior thesis from the City College of New York, I am currently working on a project entitled “Contested Political Legitimacies: The Independence of the Dominican Republic and Haitian Political Culture, 1804-1861.” In this project I seek to de-naturalize the nationalist idea that Dominicans fought for independence because they thought they were culturally incompatible with Haitians. My goal in this project is to uncover the many different ways in which the first generation of Dominican political leaders imagined and legitimated independence from Haiti.
Looking forward, for my dissertation I will study the intersection between the history of the book (print culture more generally, practices of reading, writing, translation and circulation) and the history of political thought during the Spanish American Revolutions. In essence, what I wish to accomplish is a robustly contextual history of revolution that takes political ideas or frameworks as discursive and rhetorical tools rather than closed ideological programs. I wish to capture moments in this tumultuous period when the intellection of political ideas (whether through reading or writing) were transformed into action or practice. It is these moments, I believe, that constitute the most fertile ground to capture ideas as historically mutable entities. It is here, moreover, that one can understand the instance where the subjective is most closely entangled with the inter-subjective.