Researching Race, Registrations and Documentation in Latin America and the Caribbean

Posted on: 17 June 2020 by Dr Eve Hayes de Kalaf in 2020 posts

Civil rights protestors in the Dominican Republic
Image: Thomson Reuters Foundation

Dr Eve Hayes de Kalaf is an honorary fellow at the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures and a sociolegal specialist working on questions of race, legal identity and citizenship-stripping practices in the Caribbean and Latin America.

This month I was delighted to receive confirmation of my acceptance onto the Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS) Visiting Stipendiary Fellowship Scheme. From January 2021, I will spend six months at ILAS which is one of nine institutes that form part of the School of Advanced Study (SAS) based at Senate House, University of London. 

The ILAS scheme supports the research of interdisciplinary early career researchers like me, offering us the opportunity to forge important new networks with scholars by facilitating and encouraging knowledge exchange. It also provides us with access to the fantastic resources at Senate House Library. These cover a range of topics with a focus on Latin America and the Caribbean including anthropology, economics, history, literature, politics, sociology and others.

As an ILAS fellow, I will be able to further develop the research I have been carrying out on legal identity and access to citizenship at the University of Liverpool which looks at the ways in which states categorise and document their citizens. Experts in the field of social policy have called this work “ground-breaking and interdisciplinary”[1] principally because I highlight how legal identity can be used to arbitrarily reclassify documented citizens who may not always fit comfortably with fantasies of who constitutes the body politic, such as black and indigenous populations, the poor, migrants and the migrant-descended and/or other marginalised groups). 

My doctoral project in the Dominican Republic, for example, serves as a warning about the dangers of contemporary identity management practices. It was the first to identify a link between the promulgation of legal identity practices by international organisations such as the World Bank and the United Nations with arbitrary measures that retroactively stripped hundreds of thousands of Haitian-descended citizens born in the Dominican Republic of their Dominican citizenship. The research highlighted a gap in global policy that overlooked the possible alienating effects of social inclusion measures, particularly in countries that discriminate against migrant-descended populations.

During my ILAS fellowship, I will examine the ways in which these findings overlap with other areas of scholarly and societal interest to the Institute, including the Windrush scandal in the UK which has been central to the recent Black Lives Matter protests. I will also look at the negative experiences of Latino-descended populations in the US with regards to voting and accessing public services as well as questions over access to citizenship for EU citizens and their descendants during and post-Brexit. At the same time, I will use the experience gained during the fellowship to contribute to the research themes at Liverpool, including socio-anthropology, politics and international relations, race and gender studies and contemporary Caribbean and Latin American history.

[1] See p. 19 Cruz-Martínez, G. (2019) ‘Comparative Social Policy in Contemporary Latin America: Concepts; Theories and a Research Agenda’, in Cruz-Martínez, G. (ed.) Welfare and Social Protection in Contemporary Latin America. Routledge.

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