Education and Modernization during the United States Occupation of the Dominican Republic,1916-1924
Alexa Rodriguez

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Teachers College, Columbia University

Primary Discipline

The Paradox of Education and Empire investigates the execution of education policies aimed at modernizing the Dominican Republic during the U.S. occupation from 1916 to 1924. Simultaneously employing top-down and bottom-up perspectives, I draw on archival sources from both the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to study the role of local education officials and parents in the school reforms. I find that Dominican parents, teachers and administrators, rather than U.S. officials in the military government, were central to the application of the education policies. They decided which changes to institute in accordance with their own timelines and implementation strategies. Accordingly, the reforms were also severely limited when these local actors began to oppose them. By studying the shift from Dominican collaboration to resistance, I contribute to debates about the potential for agency and negotiation within U.S. imperial structures and reveal the paradox of using schools as a vehicle for imperial expansion. In doing so, this dissertation makes three critical interventions: the first is a revision of the historiography of the U.S. occupation of the Dominican Republic by centering education as a way to investigate Dominican responses to the U.S. military government. The second is to de-center the United States within histories of U.S. informal empire by focusing on non-American actors who supported its expansion. Finally, I contend that despite goals to indoctrinate Dominican subjects through schools, Dominicans challenged and repurposed them, thereby exposing the limits to U.S. imperial policies.
About Alexa Rodriguez
Alexa Rodriguez is a Ph.D. Candidate in History and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her scholarship intersects the history of education, Latin American history and United States history. Analyzing the implementation of U.S.-led educational reforms in the Dominican Republic between 1916 and 1924, her dissertation links this case study to a longer history of U.S. imperialism in education. By examining the occupation through schools, her work reveals how education systems are crucial to the ways in which ordinary actors exert their agency within informal imperial structures. Before beginning her doctoral studies at Teachers College, Alexa received her M.S. in Educational Studies at The Johns Hopkins School of Education and her B.A. in History and American Studies at Fordham University. While in Maryland, Alexa worked as an early childhood educator in Baltimore City.

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