Unsettling SovereigntyCultural Anthropology (invited article for special retrospective on Sovereignty edited by Kauanui, J. Kehaulani) 32, no. 3 (2017):330-339

  • LISTEN: AnthroBites Podcast: Sovereignty  Yarimar Bonilla discusses her article with Siobhan McGuirk on AnthroPod podcast from Cultural Anthropology Septemer 28, 2017

Ordinary Sovereignty. Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism. 13 no.3 (2013): 152-65.

Abstract This essay expands Trouillot’s arguments regarding the politics of exceptionalism and extends his critical stance to another trope of Caribbean studies: that of political sovereignty. It examines how Caribbean spaces that trouble the Westphalian order are cast as exceptions, and, following Trouillot’s lead, it attempts to discern the political and intellectual perils of this casting. 

Visualizing Sovereignty: Cartographic Queries for the Digital Age. (by Yarimar Bonilla and Max Hantel) sx:archipelagos 1 no. 1 (2016)

AbstractThis essay asks how visual representations of the postcolonial Caribbean are shaped by, and in turn could reshape, the political imaginary of sovereignty. Describing several different experiments with form—from conventional maps to temporal charts to animation—it argues that visualizing sovereignty is a first step in retheorizing the meaning of sovereignty itself beyond the regulatory limits of insular, nation-state autonomy. The authors call for collaborative efforts to create ‘prophetic cartographies’ attuned to alternative political currents and the possibility of imagining the Caribbean otherwise.



Deprovincializing Trump, Decolonizing Diversity, and Unsettling Anthropology (by Jonathan Rosa & Yarimar Bonilla) American Ethnologist  44, no. 2 (2017):201-208

AbstractAfter Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US presidential election, there was widespread public and scholarly outcry that particularized this historical moment. But the tendency to exceptionalize Trump obscures how his rise reflects long‐standing political and economic currents, both domestically and globally. By contrast, we call for an effort to deprovincialize Trump by locating his electoral win within broader historical, political, and economic assemblages of which it is but one part.

#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, no. 1 (2015):4-17.

AbstractAs thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, to protest the fatal police shooting of unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown in the summer of 2014, news and commentary on the shooting, the protests, and the militarized response that followed circulated widely through social media networks. Through a theorization of hashtag usage, we discuss how and why social media platforms have become powerful sites for documenting and challenging episodes of police brutality and the misrepresentation of racialized bodies in mainstream media.  Our analysis combines approaches from linguistic anthropology and social movements research to investigate the semiotics of digital protest and to interrogate both the possibilities and the pitfalls of engaging in “hashtag ethnography.”

History Unchained. (A discussion of  Django Unchained  and LincolnTransition. No. 112: 68-77

AbstractIn Silencing the Past, Michel Rolph Trouillot points to the question of accuracy vs. authenticity in the historial narrative. This sessay takes up Trouillot’s distinction to grapple with the films Django Unchained and Lincoln.



Guadeloupe Is Ours. The Prefigurative Politics of the Mass Strike in the French Antilles. Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies. 12 no. 1 (2010): 125-137

AbstractIn the early months of 2009, the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe witnessed the largest wave of social protest in its history. A coalition of 48 different syndical, cultural, political, and civic organizations came together in order to protest against profiteering, exploitation and the ‘expensive life’ that characterizes life in the French Antilles. Armed with a list of 120 claims that spanned the terrain of disability rights, environmental policies, cultural nationalism, syndical freedom and increased wages, these Guadeloupean militants took to the streets, unified in their assertion that ‘Guadeloupe is ours, not theirs’. Through their movement they effectively asserted their right to shape the course of their social, economic and political futures  despite their ongoing colonial relationship with France. In this essay I explore the impact of this strike on the Guadeloupean political imagination and examine the glimpses it provides into the current political climate, and future political horizon, of the French Antilles.

“Gwadloup sé tan nou!” (Guadalupe es nuestra): El impacto de la huelga general en el imaginario político de las Antillas FrancesasCaribbean Studies. 40 no. 1 (2012): 81-98.

AbstractEn los primeros meses de 2009, la isla caribeña francesa de Guadalupe fue testigo de la más grande ola de protesta social en su historia. Una coalición de 48 distintas organizaciones sindicales, políticas, económicas, culturales y cívicas llevaron a cabo una huelga general durante un periodo de 44 días en contra de los abusos económicos y la falta de iniciativa política en la isla. En este ensayo se discute el impacto de este movimiento en el imaginario político de Guadalupe y el significado del mismo para el futuro político de las Antillas Francesas. Se sugiere que la huelga generó un momento de exploración política en el cual nuevas alternativas colectivas pudieron ser invocadas y ensayadas.


The Past Is Made by Walking: Labor Activism and Historical Production in Postcolonial Guadeloupe. Cultural Anthropology. 26 no. 3 (2011): 313–339. 

AbstractThe act of walking represents an important (yet underexamined) element of political protest and collective action, as well as an increasingly common form of historical commemoration. In this article I examine the development of a series of “memory walks” by labor activists in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. I argue that these peripatetic practices constitute a particular spatial, kinesthetic, and sensorial form of historical and archival production. Along the way, I consider what these events reveal about postcolonial forms of archival production and the importance of historical praxis to the formation of political subjectivities.


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). Paris: Karthala 77-94

Between Terror and Transcendence: Global Narratives of Islam and the Political Scripts of Guadeloupe’s Indianité. In Islam and the Americas, Aisha Khan (Ed.), 141-162. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2015.

AbstractThe events of September 11, 2001 marked the onset of a new war on terror that has been fought on the terrain of the imagination as much as on the battlefield. In this essay I consider one instance of this ideological battle as it reverberated in the French Overseas Department of Guadeloupe. I examine a cartoon that appeared in the context of my fieldwork in which a local labor activist of East Indian descent was compared to Osama Bin Laden, the principal symbol of the global terrorist cell, Al Quaeda. I explore how a labor activist with no affiliation to the religious or political movements of Osama Bin Laden came to be configured in this way, given both global narratives of terror and the particular place of both labor activists and East Indians in the Guadeloupean political imagination.




Unsettling the classics: On symptomatic readings and disciplinary agnosticism” contribution to forum on “Why do we read the classics?” Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 7 (3): 23-28. Winter 2017

Fast Writing: Ethnography in the Digital Age. Savage Minds,  March 30, 2015.

Burning Questions: The Life and Work of Michel-Rolph Trouillot, 1949-2012. NACLA Report on the Americas no. 46 (2013): 182-84.

Remembering the Songwriter: the Life and Legacies of Michel Rolph TrouillotSocial Dynamics 26, no. 2 (2014): 163-72

Full CV: Y. Bonilla CV 03.2018