Theses Doctoral

Hitting the Books and Pounding the Pavement: Haitian Educational and Labor Migrants in the Dominican Republic

Jayaram, Kiran C.

What do the practices and subjectivities of migrants disclose about the political economy and society of their host country? What meanings do they attach to working or studying abroad? What can be done to manage life while mitigating the effects of the state, the market, and xenophobia? This dissertation examines two relatively new distinct populations-Haitian university students and workers--in order to examine how class mediates migration experiences. More specifically, I considered how migrants, or what I call mobilites, 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.

In this monograph, I show how early 21st century Dominican Republic developed its particular economy and the political, legal, social, and spatial dynamics of Santo Domingo as a neoliberal capital city. Using that as context, I describe what the experiences of these students and workers reveal about the state and the economy of the Dominican Republic. Educational mobilites manage their educational studies in the context of the pressures of modern capitalism and of xenophobia within their host country. Labor mobilites, for their part, create subjectivities based upon specific meanings of work and interaction with the state, the market, and others in the street to inform their overall economic participation. The labor process and the commodity chains of the various trades in which Haitians participate reveal engagements with and contributions to various types of global flows.

I found that through the practice of these trades, the Dominican state plays a role both the creation of Haitian entrepreneurs as well as the occasional stifling of their businesses. Analyzing their work also shows how the market might appear to mitigate anti-Haitianism. Along with their labor practices, Haitians create subjectivities related to their role as workers and as urban residents to facilitate their life in the neoliberal city. Inspired by the work of David Harvey, who states (2001) that the process of capital accumulation thrives upon and generates difference, and drawing on concepts from anthropology, mobility studies, political economy, and urban studies, I argue that examining the practices and subjectivities of these two groups reveal globalizations of a middling kind, one that is neither akin to that of a transnational elite nor of an ethnic underclass.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Jayaram_columbia_0054D_11848.pdf Jayaram_columbia_0054D_11848.pdf application/pdf 66.9 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Applied Anthropology
Thesis Advisors
Varenne, Hervé H.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
March 7, 2014