The Farming of Bones

Nation-Building, Orientalism, and Othering in Danticat’s The Farming of Bones College

In October 1937, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina—one of Latin America’s most brutal dictators—directly ordered the execution of all Haitians then living in the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic. People suspected of being Haitian were asked to pronounce the Spanish word for parsley (“perejil”). If the suspect failed to pronounce the consonant ‘r’ and thus revealed their Creole accent, they would be shot on the spot. While the numbers are uncertain, it is estimated by historians that anywhere between 1,000 and 35,000 died in this manner (Ayuso 51). In her 1999 novel The Farming of Bones, Caribbean author Edwidge Danticat meticulously chronicles this event. While the plight of the Haitian people is the principal focus of the work, Danticat dedicates a substantial portion of the novel to the political climate of the Dominican Republic, which allowed this brutal massacre to occur. Danticat depicts Haitians and Dominicans as being locked in a discursively constructed binary, the sole purpose of which is to strengthen Dominican national identity and assuage the nation’s internalized racism at the cost of dehumanizing and eradicating Haitians—a purely dichotomous relationship that, in the spirit of Orientalist and Western philosophy,...

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