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The CUNY Dominican Studies Institute Partners with University of Trier in Germany

Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership

The CUNY Dominican Studies Institute Partners with University of Trier in Germany


Signing the Memorandum of Understanding at the University of Trier

The CUNY Dominican Studies Institute (CUNY DSI) is one of the most unique assets of the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership. It is the only institute of its kind in the nation, with a mission devoted to studying the history of the Dominican Republic and people of Dominican descent in the United States and across the wider Dominican diaspora. Now the DSI announces an exciting development: The Institute will partner with the University of Trier in Germany for the next five years, with an exchange that provides one of Germany’s oldest and most historic universities access to DSI’s expertise and wealth of resources, and provides CCNY faculty and students opportunities to work with leading European academics in cross-disciplinary fields.


This year DSI has announced a number of exciting new scholarship initiatives and tools for researchers—a translation series of classic Dominican texts from Spanish into English, an interactive Dominican landmarks map, an online paleography tool that helps users decipher and read manuscripts written in Spanish during the late 15th to 18th centuries, and a partnership with the Smithsonian Institute. These wide-reaching networks and innovative resources made a deep impression on scholars at the University of Trier and prompted conversation, resulting in an agreement to cooperate for mutual gains—sharing faculty, performing joint research, and providing undergraduate and graduate students already utilizing DSI resources access to a historic European university. One project in the works is the German-to-Engilsh translation of the historical essays by German-Spanish renowned historian Enrique Otte on the earlier stages of European business investments and slave trade in La Española-Santo century.


New Dynamics, New Research

Ramona Hernández, a renowned sociologist and author of pioneering texts in the areas of migration, labor, and Dominican studies, leads DSI. She says that the interest in Dominican Studies by European scholars makes sense: “Dominican populations have been steadily growing in Europe in the 20th and 21st centuries,” Hernández says. “There is a new dynamic to study: How has Dominican culture evolved within European countries? And there's the interesting question of how new generations assimilate in Germany as compared with those in the United States? For instance, new generations born in the U.S. still call themselves Dominican. But is that the case for those in the E.U.? We don’t yet know.”
The official agreement and signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the institutions came during a two-day program by the America Romana Centrum at the University of Trier titled "Dominicanity: Perspectives on a (trans-) national concept." With lectures delivered in English, Spanish, and German, the interdisciplinary aspects of Dominican Studies were on show with presentations such as "The Curse of Coloniality in Junot Diaz's Novel The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao: Fukú as a Theoretical Caribbean Concept," and "The Dominican Republic: A Typical Latin American Middle Income Country? A Political Economy Perspective." Professor Hernández gave the introductory lecture: "Dominican Migration to the U.S.: The Interplay among the Dominican State, the U.S. State, and the American Dream."
The City (and Director) That Never Sleeps
Hernández points out that visiting scholars in residence on the City College campus could not ask for a better location. “We’re surrounded by historic neighborhoods—Washington Heights, Harlem, Spanish Harlem—that show off many aspects of Dominican culture and experience in the United States.” 
The Dominican Studies Institute houses the Dominican Archives and the Dominican Library, the first and only institutions in the United States collecting primary and secondary source material about people of Dominican descent. It holds the largest collection of Dominican Studies documents, over 100,000 pages, ranging from the 16th century on through Ellis Island records in the 20th century. In 2010, the Institute opened its Archives and Library facility to art exhibitions, thus becoming the first exhibit space in New York City devoted exclusively to work by and about people of Dominican descent. The Institute organizes lectures, conferences, and exhibitions that are open to the public free of charge.
With the enormous range of programming, initiatives, and institutional growth having happened in just the last year, one might think that DSI directors and support staff at the Institute are working 24 hours a day. And it seems that impression is not far from the truth—at least for Dr. Hernández. “It’s an exciting time and while it can be difficult at times to get all the resources we need to keep things moving along as fast as we want, we’ll make it happen. I might not sleep, but I dream very big—and then we go out and reach our goals.”


This year, the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the formal approval of the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute by the City University of New York Board of Trustees. To commemorate this milestone, the Institute has organized a year-long series of activities that will culminate on December 6th with a formal black tie gala in the majestic landmark Great Hall of the City College of New York.  The Dominican Intellectual Legacy Gala will be held Saturday, December 6th, 2014 - 6:30 p.m, at the Great Hall on the City College of New York campus. For more information and to register, visit the CUNY DSI website.