The Effron Center welcomes Professor Yarimar Bonilla, scholar of American studies, Latino/a/x studies, and Caribbean studies

Written by
Effron Center for the Study of America Log
Effron Center
Nov. 1, 2023

Princeton University is extremely excited to welcome Yarimar Bonilla as professor in the Effron Center for the Study of America. Bonilla is an acclaimed political anthropologist, accomplished scholar, and a prominent public intellectual. She teaches and writes broadly across disciplines and fields on questions of race, citizenship, empire, and the entanglements of postcolonial sovereignty. 

“I’m thrilled to be joining the Effron Center's vibrant academic community,” Bonilla said. “I can’t think of a better place from which to explore the complex interplay of race, citizenship, and empire within the American context.”

Bonilla comes to Princeton from Hunter College-CUNY, where she taught from 2018 to 2023, most recently as a professor in the Department of Africana, Puerto Rican and Latino Studies. While at Hunter College, she served as director of the university’s Center for Puerto Rican Studies, also known as CENTRO. Founded in 1973, CENTRO is the largest university-based research institute, library, and archive dedicated to the Puerto Rican experience in the United States.

Prior to her tenure at Hunter College, she taught at Rutgers University and at the University of Virginia.

“Princeton University and the Effron Center are thrilled to welcome Yarimar Bonilla to our faculty. Her work is reshaping social scientific approaches to disaster, capitalism, and colonialism, strengthening Caribbean studies and Latino studies on our campus, which is central to the Effron Center’s goals” said Aisha Beliso De-Jesús, Effron Center Chair and Olden Professor of American Studies.

Bonilla is the author and editor of several impactful books. Her most recent, Trouillot Remixed: The Michel Rolph Trouillot Reader (2021), is a co-edited collection of writings by this renowned Haitian anthropologist whose work unsettled key concepts in anthropology, history, postcolonial studies, Black studies, Caribbean studies, and beyond. Democracy Now! host Juan González hailed her second book, Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico Before and After the Storm (2019), as a “gripping collection of essays, poems, and photos [that] captures both the roots of Puerto Rico's current crisis … and the determination of the island's people to persevere and forge a better future." In her first book, Non-Sovereign Futures: French Caribbean Politics in the Wake of Disenchantment (2015), Bonilla grapples with the conceptual arsenal of political modernity—challenging contemporary notions of freedom, sovereignty, nationalism, and revolution.

“From popular musicians to activists, from poets to journalists, Bonilla’s projects engage a breadth of voices that reveal the colonial and imperial roots of crisis and lay the groundwork for new political imaginaries, within and beyond Puerto Rico,” Beliso De-Jesús continued.

Her documentary projects made with collaborator Juan Carlos Dávila include Aftershocks of Disaster: the Film and the Emmy Award-winning Puerto Rican Voices, a five-part investigative TV docuseries about colonialism in Puerto Rico. As a whole, Puerto Rican Voices delves into issues of energy crisis, pollution, displacement, and economic precarity, resulting from a decade-long recession and the aftershocks of hurricane María. 

She was also a contributor to the first season of the award-winning podcast series La Brega with her audio ethnography of Puerto Rico’s colonial crisis. In addition, she is a founder of the public humanities project Puerto Rico Syllabus, as well as a former editor of Public Anthropologies.

Bonilla received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, an M.A. from the University of New Mexico, and a B.A. from the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras.

Bonilla is a regular contributor to The New York Times. She also currently serves as convener for the interdisciplinary project Bridging the Divides, a decolonization project funded by the Mellon foundation, while she is on sabbatical during the 2023-2024 academic year. Students can look forward to enrolling in classes taught by Professor Bonilla beginning the fall 2024 semester!