Freedman Award Supports Research on Transnational Identity

March 10, 2019

The Department of Anthropology is pleased to announce that Henry Gonzalez was awarded the Freedman Award for Undergraduate Research in Anthropology.  Henry Gonzalez is a senior majoring in Africana Studies, with a minor in Anthropology. 

The Freedman Award was funded by an endowment established by Randy ‘75 and Howard ‘74, MBA ‘75 Freedman.  The Freedman Awards support undergraduate students in undertaking anthropological research.

The Department of Anthropology is thankful for the generosity and support from Randy and Howard Freedman.  Many students have received the Freedman Awards in the past and the impact has been significant.  These awards make it possible for students to dig deeper into their research, travel, and develop deeper understandings. 

Henry Gonzalez describes his research below:

My honors thesis, Aesthetic Politics & New Media in the Post-Colonial Dominican Folk Movement , looks at the role a small movement of Dominican folklorists, musicians, and anthropologist have played in reframing and expanding conceptions of a “Dominican” ethnic identity.

This marginalized urban movement, centered in Santo Domingo and New York City, has spent over 50 years creating, promoting, and distributing narratives (through music & text) which centered the Dominican Republic’s relationship to the transatlantic African diaspora, the Caribbean region, and the tradition of Afro-indigenous maroon resistance community. Meanwhile this transnational Dominican movement created meaningful networks between Santo Domingo, Puerto Prince, and New York City.

During the winter of 2019, I will explore the way multimedia and live performance of the island’s autochthonous and Afro-descendant rhythms are used by people in Santo Domingo and New York City to shift the borders of their shared ethnic identity, both geo-political and ideological. This movement has been gestating in small regions of Santo Domingo and New York City for several generations, and only in the past 10 years has it really begun to break into public consciousness, getting national /international media attention, and becoming financially and socially lucrative for a few initial breakout artists involved in the movement. My research focuses on musicians but has parallels in new poetic and visual media trends within the same community as well, as complemented by their shared artistic spaces and relationships between artists of different mediums.

This research project will explore broader questions regarding the relationship between aesthetics, politics, and consumerism. Additionally I explore transnational identity in New York City, and the Dominican Republic. Various scholars have explored the multiple ways in which folk movements in post-colonial nations have influenced important and far-reaching changes in conceptions of ethnic/national identity. My research project takes up this line of inquiry in order to explore the legacy of this movement, and how they are continuing to impact an emerging generation of artists more than ever before due to increased access in the age of new media. I ask what role does music, art, and their methods of media distribution play in people’s negotiations of nationhood and identity?

This question will be answered through video interviews and collection of oral histories from key figures in the Dominican folk movement including Tone Vicioso, Jose Duluc, Xiomara Fortuna, and more. This portion of the trip will include interviews and participant observation with performance and cultural groups in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo, who embrace the folk-fusion culture and in doing so reimagine possibilities of “Dominicanidad” and who belongs to it. My focus will also be on the dialogue that is occurring between Dominican diaspora groups in the United States and the people in the Dominican Republic.

Henry Gonzalez