Summer 2015 Fellow: Diego Ubiera

Diego Ubiera


Dr. Diego Ubiera is an Assistant Professor of Spanish at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. He earned his B.A. at North Carolina State University and his M.A. and Ph.D. at UC-San Diego, after defending his dissertation in January of this year. Dr. Ubiera's research interests focus on Caribbean literature and history, cultural studies of the African Diaspora, and Latin American intellectual history. We spoke with him briefly about his experience at the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, after he received the 2015 Summer Library Travel Research Award to conduct post-doctoral research.

Dr. Ubiera's current project is a continuation of his previous work on 19th century Dominican writer Pedro Francisco Bonó (1828-1906), known as the first sociologist and the first novelist of the Dominican Republic (his novel El montero was published in 1856). Bonó has generally been perceived by scholars as a unique and independent author, but Dr. Ubiera argues that his writings draw from the larger Dominican intellectual tradition, in particular the antislavery tradition earlier in the 19th century, "In the late 19th century, massive sugar plantations arrived on the island for the first time since the late 16th century. Bonó seriously critiqued what he saw was happening: how the sugar industry created inequality and marginalization of the poor. Dominican scholars view him as the 'intellectual of the poor'." In the intellectual history of the 19th century, Dr. Ubiera argues that disproportionate emphasis has been placed on the tradition of conservative, hispanophile intellectuals, and not enough attention given to the social thought of Bonó and such writers as Manuel Rodríguez Objío, and Gregorio Luperón, a group, he notes, "who was often in solidarity with Haiti against imperial aggression."

Dr. Ubiera's dissertation featured a "contextualized reading of Bonó's essays, explaining his political trajectory in the Atlantic as opposed to national context." Uberia explains, "I am interested in further addressing the larger story of emancipation, independence, and nationhood across the island in the 19th century. It's a really interesting story my research addresses." Dr. Ubiera is also interested in tracing links between Bonó and Haitian writers who may have agreed with his critiques, published in newspapers at the time, of plantation agriculture. He plans to present the fruits of his research in articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals. "I'm going to start with an article explaining Bonó, detailing my argument concisely."

Dr. Ubiera also plans to conduct further research, dealing with exiled Dominican writers, in archives in the wider Caribbean. He has found his experience at the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute Library, his first extended stay in New York City, an invigorating one. "The grant has kept me engaged with my research after defending my dissertation. It allows me to be much more productive, to access materials quickly, in a great space, and to have productive conversations with people here. It's an impressive library, with so many sources, widening the scope of the research. What I'm learning here is that there's so much more to look at. It's very exciting, but also overwhelming." In his research, Dr. Ubiera has mainly been studying numerous compilations of 19th-century Dominican writings. He has also been looking at contemporary fiction produced in New York by Dominican authors, to use in his language and literature class at Fort Lewis. Dr. Ubiera hopes to explore the relationship between contemporary literature and the radical left in Santo Domingo in the '60s and '70s in future research. "I want to think about how Dominican writers see the role of fiction in relation to politics now; where to locate politics. What is the relationship of literature to politics, now?"

Additionally, he speaks enthusiastically about the intellectual atmosphere at the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute: "The people that work at CUNY DSI are very committed to my research. They're very helpful in finding sources, and very approachable. My discussions with Dr. Hernández and Anthony Stevens-Acevedo, and with other grantees, comparing notes on our particular research and about Dominican Studies in general, have made this a great experience.CUNY DSI is also earnestly involved with the concerns of the Dominican community outside of academia. I am struck by how the Institute generously mentors undergraduates as well as junior scholars. The way that CUNY DSI inspires students to go beyond exhausted approaches to Dominican Studies is very important."