Michelle Ann McKinley F'12
ACLS Fellowship Program 2012
Department: School of Law
University of Oregon
Fractional Freedoms: Slavery, Intimacy, and Legal Activism in Seventeenth-Century Colonial Lima, 1593-1700
How could enslaved women assert legal claims to personhood, wages, and virtue, when the law regarded them as mere property? Under what conditions did the civil law of slavery create opportunities for enslaved women to demand liberty and justice in a judicial forum? This project focuses primarily on enslaved women as legal actors within the landscape of Hispanic urban slavery: women who were socially disfavored, economically active (at times modestly prosperous), and extremely litigious. A retrospective look at their freedom suits tells us how litigants strategically exploited the rhetorical power of liberty through recourse to the law, though their lived realities were decidedly unfree and unequal.