Negotiating Authority: Bureaucratic and Cultural Logics in the Early Modern Spanish Empire

Conference on Latin American History 59
Sunday, January 9, 2011: 11:00 AM-1:00 PM
Great Republic Room (The Westin Copley Place)
Chad T. Black, University of Tennessee
Yanna P. Yannakakis, Emory University

Session Abstract

After several academic generations of neglect, scholars of early-modern Spanish empire are giving renewed attention to the role of decentralization and negotiation in constructing and sustaining authority in the Indies. Traditional institutional and legal histories of the global Spanish Monarchy documented, at least up to the War of Spanish Succession, the process by which political authority was established within a labyrinthine and often contradictory web of legal and jurisdictional relationships. Building on these earlier histories, from Clarence Haring to John Leddy Phelan, the new scholarship extends the modes of decentralization and negotiation beyond the formal political arena. This panel will analyze the logic of decentralization and negotiation in a variety of imperial sites—inquisitorial practice in New Spain, peasant recruitment for late-colonial settlement in Patagonia, and in the everyday experiences of home, street corner, and market of the north Andes. By connecting traditionally conceived bureaucratic strategies to a number of different social practices, the papers of this panel demonstrate the extent to which the decentralization and negotiation of authority formed a deep cultural logic of legitimacy in the global Spanish Monarchy. This legitimacy was constituted through both formal and informal relationships of authority, and undergirded a social hierarchy dependent upon the consent of subordinates. As such, the role of decentralization, negotiation, and consent in the early modern Spanish empire upends notions of the connection between colonial power and the origins of the modern state. Thus, this panel will be of interest to anyone working on early-modern empire and the Atlantic world, as well as those with interest in the relationship between family authority and political authority, and those interested in the formation of peasant-state relations.