Conference on Latin American History 11
The papers in this panel investigate the role the courts played in helping to redefine male domestic authority within colonial families, households, and communities in Peru and Brazil, particularly regarding their geographical reach and relationship of power with subordinate figures. Jane Mangan explores the question of how courts and legal procedures helped to preserve the patriarchal order of families and household units that were on the move. By affording husbands and fathers the legal means of transferring their patriarchal authority to another man during their family’s migration to Peru, courts protected the domestic authority of absent men against potential male interlopers or autonomous actions by women and minors. Bianca Premo investigates the relationship between courts and litigants in cases where subordinate members of a family or household attempted to renegotiate the treatment received by a patriarchal figure. By acting as mediators, and not necessarily enforcers of the law, courts and prosecutors occasionally helped women, natives, and slaves in Peru to challenge male domestic authority and recalibrate the power relationship in households slightly in their favor. Finally, Mariana Dantas examines the fragile domestic reality of black women in informal and interracial unions in Minas Gerais as they faced the legal issues that followed the death of a partner. By engaging with these women, as they sought the legal means to protect the integrity of their families and their households, courts, prosecutors, and councils helped them develop a narrative of and assert their own domestic authority.