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Yarimar Bonilla – An Unthinkable State: Puerto Rico, the United States and the Aporias of U.S. Empire

January 13, 2021 @ 12:15 pm - 1:30 pm  |  Virtual Event


In the wake of Hurricane Maria, unprecedented attention turned to the unincorporated territory of Puerto Rico and its enduring colonial relationship with the United States. This presentation will examine the rising popularity and shifting strategies of the Puerto Rican statehood movement, with a focus on how and why annexation has come to be imagined as a form of anti-colonial politics. Over the last decades the statehood movement has grown steadily as the Puerto Rican territory has experienced an unprecedented economic crisis, with failing infrastructure, a seemingly unpayable public debt, and historic levels of out-migration. Within this context many residents envision annexation as the only way of safeguarding what is currently viewed as a precarious and unguaranteed place within the nation. In this talk, I offer an ethnographic analysis of how statehood is imagined and defended by its supporters and show how this movement uniquely articulates the very contradictions and power asymmetries that structure Puerto Rico’s relationship to the US.

Yarimar Bonilla is a Professor in the Department of Africana, Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Hunter College and the Ph.D. Program in Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She is the author of Non-Sovereign Futures: French Caribbean Politics in the Wake of Disenchantment(2015); co-editor of Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico Before and After the Storm (2019); and a founder of the Puerto Rico Syllabus Project. Bonilla also writes a monthly column in the Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Día and is a regular contributor to The Washington Post, The Nation, Jacobin, and The New Yorker, and a frequent guest on National Public Radio’s Democracy Now! Her current research—for which she was named a 2018-2020 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.


RSVP by 11 AM (PST) on Wednesday, January 13th; you will receive Zoom link and password at 11:30 AM the day of the colloquium.

This colloquium is co-sponsored by Critical Race and Ethnic Studies (CRES), the Research Center for the Americas (RCA), and the Anthropology Department.

The Center for Cultural Studies hosts a weekly Wednesday colloquium featuring work by faculty and visitors. We gather online at 12:10 PM, with presentations beginning at 12:15 PM.

Staff assistance is provided by the Humanities Institute.

*2020-2021 colloquia will be held virtually until further notice. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own coffee, tea, and cookies to the session.


January 13, 2021
12:15 pm - 1:30 pm