Blurring the lines between political and historical anthropology, Bonilla teaches and writes about questions of sovereignty, citizenship, and race across the Americas. She has tracked these issues across a broad range of sites and practices including: anti-colonial labor activism in the French Caribbean, the role of digital protest in the Black Lives Matter movement, the politics of the Trump presidency, and her current research on the political and social aftermath of hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
Bonilla’s first book, Non-Sovereign Futures: French Caribbean Politics in the Wake of Disenchantment, examines how contemporary activists in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe imagine and contest the limits of postcolonial sovereignty. Challenging contemporary notions of freedom, sovereignty, nationalism, and revolution, Non-Sovereign Futures recasts Guadeloupe, and the Caribbean as a whole, not as a problematically non-sovereign site, but as a place that can unsettle how we think of sovereignty itself.
Her most recent book project, Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico Before and After the Storm, (Co-edited with Marisol LeBrón) compiles the narratives of Puerto Rican journalists, poets, artists, and community leaders to show how Puerto Ricans come to terms with not just the impact of Maria, but also the larger, deeper traumas produced by the island’s longer socio-political history.
Professor Bonilla’s next book project Shattered Futures — for which she was named a 2018 Carnegie Fellow —examines the politics of recovery in Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria and the forms of political and social trauma that the storm revealed. She is also at work on an ethnographic study of the Puerto Rican pro-statehood movement, tentatively titled The Unthinkable State, which traces how and why annexationism as a form of anti-colonial politics.
In addition, Professor Bonilla has a strong interest in the role of digital technologies within social movements and academic practice. She has theorized hashtag usage within the context of the Black Lives Matter movement and the semiotics of digital protest in the context of Guadeloupe. She is currently developing a multi-media political atlas of the Caribbean entitled, Visualizing Sovereignty and is a principal collaborator in the #PuertoRicoSyllabus project.
Bonilla is a prominent public intellectual and a leading voice on Caribbean and Latin-X politics. She writes a monthly column in the Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Día titled “En Vaivén,” is a regular contributor to publications such as The Washington Post, The Nation, Jacobin, and The New Yorker, and a frequent guest on National Public Radio and news programs such as Democracy Now!.
Professor Bonilla has also been the recipient of multiple grants and awards from the National Science Foundation, the Wenner Gren Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, the Chateaubriand Fellowship Program, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Carter G. Woodson Institute for Afro-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia, and the W.E.B. Dubois Institute at Harvard University. She is currently Section Editor of Public Anthropologies for the journal American Anthropologist, and serves on the editorial committee for Small Axe: A Caribbean Platform for Criticism.
Yarimar is a celebrated author and editor known for both her analytical acumen and lucid prose. Throughout her writings she explores how contemporary political actors navigate, contest, and transform the limits of modern politics across the Americas and beyond.
Professor Bonilla has a strong interest in the role of digital technologies in the democratization of knowledge. She produces animated scholarly videos, public syllabi, and online scholarly resources.
Writing broadly across disciplines and fields, Bonilla’s academic articles have tackled questions of coloniality, sovereignty, historicity, racial politics, digital ethnography, cartographic representation, and the politics of memory. At present she is committed to publishing solely in open-access platforms.