yanna yannakakis on indigenous people and legal culture in spanish america


Yanna Yannakakis, ‘Indigenous People and Legal Culture in Spanish America’, History Compass 11, 11 (2013).

This article reviews recent literature on indigenous people and the legal systems in colonial Mexico and the Andes, with special emphasis on legal engagement as a form of politics and the making of legal culture. Through mastery of alphabetic writing systems, literacy, and Spanish language, native peoples used colonial courts as an arena in which to resolve conflict within and among Indian municipalities, and with Spanish officials, both civil and ecclesiastical. In this way, the legal system facilitated the negotiation of colonial rule, including the growth and transformation of legal institutions and practices, and the relationship between Indian and Spanish jurisdictions. The legal system also provided an arena for cultural encounter in which Spanish and native forms of law and knowledge were circulated and constructed. Scholarship on these topics is growing fast, putting ethnohistory into an exciting dialogue with comparative studies of law and empire.

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