Possession, Ownership, and Dependence in the Lusophone Atlantic

Sunday, January 5, 2020: 8:50 AM
Beekman Room (New York Hilton)
Mariana Dias Paes, Max Planck Institute for European Legal History
An intense circulation of people and cultural practices in the Lusophone South Atlantic (present-day Angola and Brazil) led to the articulation of a shared Atlantic culture. The circulation of legal texts and, notably, of people practicing law and issuing legal procedures in the colonies, gave way to shared legal knowledge. Regional and local variations on both sides of the Atlantic leave open the question of how shared normativities, theories, legal texts and procedures, were understood, applied, and reappraised in different territories. In order to shed some light on this issue, I will analyze how legal categories of property law – specially “possession” – were mobilized by parties and judicial officials in both sides of the Lusophone South Atlantic. In order to identify these local peculiarities in both sides of the Atlantic, I will analyze lawsuits concerning the acquisition of land. Legal disputes over land can show how the legal categories that structured this Atlantic property law interacted with vernacular, local and customary understandings about property and legal relations with land. The lawsuits that this paper will analyze are part of the collections of the Brazilian National Archives and of the Provincial Court of Benguela.