Blurring the lines between political and historical anthropology, Professor Bonilla teaches and writes about political imaginaries, colonial legacies, and the politics of history in the Atlantic World. Her first book, Non-Sovereign Futures, examines the political possibilities that emerge in the wake of postcolonial disenchantment, through an ethnographic study of labor activism in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. As an overseas department of France, Guadeloupe is one of a handful of non-independent societies in the Caribbean that seem like political exceptions—or even paradoxes—in our current postcolonial era. Non-Sovereign Futures wrestles with the conceptual arsenal of political modernity—challenging contemporary notions of freedom, sovereignty, nationalism, and revolution—in order to recast Guadeloupe not as a problematically non-sovereign site but as a place that can unsettle how we think of sovereignty itself.
Professor Bonilla is currently at work on an ethnographic study of the Puerto Rican pro-statehood movement, tentatively titled The Unthinkable State. This project will examine historical shifts in how the relationship between the United States and its unincorporated territories has been imagined over time and will interrogate how and why annexationism has come to be imagined as a form of anti-colonial politics.
In addition, Professor Bonilla has a strong interest in the role of digital technologies within both social movements and academic practices. She is currently working on several projects regarding the use of digital technologies among both African-American and Caribbean activists, and is also in the process of developing a multi-media political atlas of the Caribbean entitled, Visualizing Sovereignty.
Professor Bonilla has been the recipient of multiple grants and awards from the National Science Foundation, the Wenner Gren Foundation, the Chateaubriand Fellowship Program, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Carter G. Woodson Institute for Afro-American and African Studies. She currently serves on the Executive Board of the Society for Cultural Anthropology, on the editorial committee for Small Axe: A Caribbean Platform for Criticism, and the editorial board of the Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology.
2015 Non-Sovereign Futures: French Caribbean Politics in the Wake of Disenchantment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
2015 #Ferguson: Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States, by Yarimar Bonilla and Jonathan Rosa. American Ethnologist, 42(1):4-17. http://americanethnologist.org/2014/anthropology-ferguson-missouri/
2014 Remembering the Songwriter: the Life and Legacies of Michel Rolph Trouillot. Social Dynamics 26 (2): 163-72. (Songwriter PDF)
2013. Ordinary Sovereignty. Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism.13( 3) 42: 152-65. (Ordinary Sovereignty PDF)
2013. History Unchained. Transition. No. 112: 68-77. (History Unchained PDF)
2012. "Non-Sovereign Futures: French Caribbean Politics in the Wake of Disenchantment". In Caribbean Sovereignty, Democracy and Development in an Age of Globalization, Linden Lewis (Ed.). 208-227. New York: Routledge. (NonSov Futures PDF)
2012. "Gwadloup sé tan nou!" (Guadalupe es nuestra): El impacto de la huelga general en el imaginario político de las Antillas Francesas. Caribbean Studies. 40(1): 81-98. (Guadaloupe es nuestra PDF)
2012 "Le syndicalisme comme marronage: épistémologies du travail et de l'histoire en Guadeloupe." In Mobilisations sociales aux Antilles: Les événements de 2009 dans tous leurs sens, Jean-Claue William, Fred Reno and Fabienne Alvarez (Eds). 77-94. Paris: Karthala. (Syndicalisme comme marronage PDF)
2011. The Past Is Made by Walking: Labor Activism and Historical Production in Postcolonial Guadeloupe. Cultural Anthropology. 26(3): 313–339. (The Past is Made by Walking PDF)
2010. Guadeloupe Is Ours. The Prefigurative Politics of the Mass Strike in the French Antilles. Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies. 12(1): 125-137. (Guadeloupe is Ours PDF)
2009. Guadeloupe on Strike: A New Political Chapter in the French Antilles. NACLA Report on the Americas. (46): 182-84. (Guadeloupe on Strike PDF)
RECENT COURSES TAUGHT
01:070:101 Introduction to Anthropology – This course will provide students with an introduction to the field of Cultural Anthropology. Through readings, films, lectures, and discussions we will examine the orienting concepts of cultural analysis, the ethical implications and methodological challenges of ethnographic research, and the political and intellectual value of practicing anthropology within and beyond academe. View Course site: https://anth101.wordpress.com
01:070:304 Political Anthropology – This course will examine various processes of opposition, resistance, and revolution. The first half of the course will survey foundational works of political theory, while the second half will examine political practice from an ethnographic perspective with an eye towards the lived experience of political participation and the formation (and transformation) of resisting subjects. Over the course of the semester students will conduct individual research on contemporary social movements and for their final project they will think creatively about emerging political agendas for the future.
01:070:518 Power, State, Nation – This graduate seminar is guided by a series of methodological questions: if we understand Power, State, and Nation as sets of relationships (rather than ontological realities), then what are the processes and practices through which these relationships are constituted? Through which institutions and practices do the State, the Nation, and their tools of governance become manifest in the lives of denizens? Through what process are citizens produced and denied? And how can we examine those relationships ethnographically? The first half of the course will examine conceptual debates regarding the study of modern states, nations, and forms of governance—with critical attention to the underlying assumptions of modern political life. The second half of the course will feature ethnographic analysis of the lived experience of citizenship, sovereignty, and both national and international governance. The course is designed for students who intend to conduct ethnographic research on related topics, and will explore the vexed problems that arise when studying topics that are simultaneously analytical categories, historically and culturally located terms, and fields of social life. View Course site: https://powerstatenation.wordpress.com/
01:070:605 The Anthropology of Sovereignty – The concept of sovereignty has become central to theorists across a broad range of academic disciplines, fueled in part by recent debates over globalization, transnationalism, international human rights, and the global war on terrorism. Much of this scholarship suggests that we have entered a new era in which political and economic power is being deployed in unprecedented ways across national boundaries and where non-state actors increasingly take up what were long thought to be the privileged duties of state governments. In this class we will examine these arguments with a critical eye, placing them within larger, more complicated, genealogies of political authority. Rather than assuming a current moment of "exception," where sovereignty has become detached from the nation state, we will approach sovereignty as a conceptual framework for thinking about how national boundaries, territorial jurisdictions, political communities, and economic institutions are continuously being forged and contested.