Friday, December 15, 2017

New in LHR: Chinese Litigation and Cuban Manumission

Two new articles in Law and History Review are now available on-line via Cambridge Core:

Law, Custom, and Social Norms: Civil Adjudications in Qing and Republican China, by Xiaoqun Xu
This study examines how law, custom, and social norm interacted in civil justice in Qing and Republican China by looking into 152 civil cases tried in 1912, right after the founding of the Republic of China, and a body of legal interpretations from the Supreme Court during 1912-1929, and certain provisions in the Civil Code of 1929-30--the very first one in Chinese history. It shows that both law and custom were invoked by judges within their moral universe or social norm. It traces how the Supreme Court allowed local customs to be a legal ground for rulings in certain civil disputes, and which customs in civil matters in the Qing and the early Republic were, and which were not, “hardened” into the Civil Code. The interplay between law and custom, mediated by judges with their normative sense of right and wrong, constituted both continuity and change in civil justice between the Qing era and the Republican period. Ultimately, the issues addressed here speak to a larger question of how Chinese jurists, within their judicial discretions, tried to strike a difficult but necessary balance between “law-on-books” and “law-in-action,” while law on the books was undergoing important revisions.
Affective Debts: Manumission by Grace and the Making of Gradual Emancipation Laws in Cuba, 1817–68, by Adriana Chira
Drawing on thirty freedom suits from nineteenth-century eastern Cuba, this article explores how some slaves redefined slaveholders' oral promises of manumissions by grace from philanthropic acts into contracts providing a deferred wage payout. Manumissions by grace tended to reward affective labor (loyalty, affection) and to be granted to domestic slaves. Across Cuba, as in other slave societies of Spanish America, through self-purchase, slaves made sustained efforts to monetize the labor that they did by virtue of their ascribed status. The monetization of affective work stands out amongst such efforts. Freedom litigants involved in conflicts over manumissions by grace emphasized the market logics in domestic slavery, revealing that slavery was a fundamentally economic institution even in such instances where it appeared to be intertwined with kinship and domesticity. Through this move, they challenged the assumption that slaves toiled loyally for masters out of a natural commitment to an unchanging master-slave hierarchy. By the 1880s, through court litigation and extra-judicial violence, slave litigants and insurgents would turn oral promises of manumission by grace into a blueprint for general emancipation. Through their legal actions, enslaved people, especially women, revealed the significance and transactional nature of care work, a notion familiar to us today.