Fractional Freedoms: Slavery, Legal Activism and Ecclesiastical Courts in Colonial Lima, 1593-1689
Law and History Review, Vol. 28, No. 3, pp. 749-90, 2010
42 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2010
Date Written: July 29, 2010
This article examines the ways in which enslaved litigants engaged with the ecclesiastical courts in 17th century colonial Lima. The article analyzes a sample of the types of litigation instigated by Peruvian slaves to assert their conjugal rights, to effect transfers of ownership, and to enforce oral promises of manumission. It also deals with complaints of domestic violence, abandonment, destitution, and infidelity brought by enslaved women. The article uses accusations of concubinage and adultery, and “crimes against public morality” to explore the role of church courts in policing the boundaries of inter-ethnic relationships.
This article should interest scholars of slavery working at the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality, particularly with regard to distinctions between the civil and common law systems of slavery. It should also interest historians of comparative family law and the canon law’s treatment of marriage, illegitimacy and concubinage. How does a comparative perspective add to our understanding of the way that sexuality, race and gender influence family law, and vice versa? How does recourse to the court either influence hegemonic norms of marriage or contest these? Finally, the article should also interest those using legal records as narratives to “write history from below” through the optics of legal anthropology and critical legal studies.
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