Markets as cultural intersections I: Reflections of nationality in Haitian and Dominican paintings

September 22nd 2011

When I started fieldwork in Santo Domingo in 2004, I was struck by how Dominican public spaces appear to act as a middle ground in which Haitian transnationals sell their art to foreign tourists. With few tourists to sell to in Haiti, dealers buy art and bring it across the border for the much larger Dominican market.

Dominicans appear to have little to do with this transaction, since most of the paintings are produced and distributed by Haitian nationals. Furthermore, Dominicans rarely buy Haitian-style paintings as they prefer their own national aesthetic. Their role seems limited to attracting tourists and allowing Haitian dealers to use Dominican public space.

Death on the border: Ciudad Juarez, femicide, and a Chicano art response

September 19th 2011

This guest blog by Lance Richardson discusses his research on art made in response to the murder of women on the US-Mexico border. Lance is a freelance writer and photographer based in Sydney and New York

Ciudad Juárez first came into my field of vision through the windows of an airconditioned bus. I was returning from Mexico to the U.S. by way of El Paso, Texas, and that meant a drive through its sister city south of the border. The place meant nothing to me at the time, but I remember its sprawl and aura of grim deterioration

Haiti and the Dominican Republic: Same island, different societies?

September 15th 2011

On the 18th March, 2011, I arrived in Santo Domingo after a nine-hour bus ride from Port-au-Prince. I had been visiting the Dominican capital for years, but I had never arrived from Haiti. \

Entering Santo Domingo was a shock to the system after spending two months in a Haitian disaster zone. Newly painted glass-and-concrete buildings stood in neat rows, nestled in tropical foliage. Well-dressed pedestrians flowed sparsely and smoothly along the evenly-paved sidewalks.

It struck me that a parent could actually push a pram along one of these sidewalks with no difficulty at all. Luxury vehicles were directed along well-maintained roads by instructional signs and physical barriers. It was eerily quiet. Santo Domingo appeared to my Haiti-filled senses to be a strange, shining example of order, governance, and care. It looked, I thought at the time, like California.

Mobile money as material culture at the British Museum

September 10th 2011

If you do an internet search on mobile money, you will find that most results displayed deal with issues about technology, security, and socioeconomic development. Few people stop to think about mobile money as a cultural product or a material thing.

After all, it is meant to be a tool to move money around, not an artifact that expresses our social relations. Plus, the whole idea of mobile money is to make money less material as it reduces our dependence on cash, right?