Bonnie Cherry

2023 Synar Graduate Research Fellowship

Bonnie Cherry is a PhD candidate in Jurisprudence and Social Policy at Berkeley Law, with a Designated Emphasis in the Study of Religion. Bonnie is a recipient of the Berkeley Mentored Research Award and the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award, and is currently a Berkeley Empirical Legal Scholars fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Society. She received her undergraduate degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from UC Berkeley where she received the Departmental Citation for Distinguished Undergraduate Research and graduated summa cum laude.

Research: In the last seventy five years alone (and often absent the consent of Tribal councils), Tribal lands in the United States have been used to house detention centers, mine and process uranium, and test nuclear weapons and surveillance technology: all in the name of national security. These securitized sites are superimposed legal spaces on reservation lands exemplifying “routine exceptionality:” unfettered martial and political power, which in non-Native spaces might be labeled “extraordinary” but in Indian country is quite routine.My project investigates the development of this extraordinary use of Indian country. On one level, this dissertation asks why Native lands and people are particularly vulnerable to security moves and extraordinary use in ways non-Native lands and people simply are not. I am interested in how this extraordinary use is legally facilitated by premises which undergird US Federal Indian Law, and the role of sovereign Tribal nations in either facilitating or resisting it. I am also interested in how extraordinary security measures against Native people and lands became embedded in administrative law and organizational practice. On another level, this study asks how the moment of “emergency” facilitates this process. I am interested not only in sweeping executive power in war time, but also in whether or not the moment of “national security crisis” shapes American ideas of what type of violence is acceptable against specific peoples and spaces.My preliminary research suggests that security measures against Native people and lands become embedded in US law through moments of positive contingency in times of security “crisis:” instances where, in the absence of guidance by legal or administrative policy, actors work through mutual uncertainty, producing administrative decisions that become embedded within law. I call this process legalized securitization: security language, practice, and belief become embedded in administrative law and policy, shrouding martial violence in legitimacy. 

Research interests: 

Major(s): PHD Candidate, Jurisprudence and Social Policy