Friday, January 3, 2020

Paperless Law and Extrajudicial Legality

I am so grateful that Mitra invited me to be the guest blogger during this first month of the new year and decade.  If I understand correctly, for your New Year’s resolution, you couldn’t decide between learning more about Latin American legal history or thinking more about the relationship between literacy and legal culture, right? Well, great news! My posts this month will be about both. 

I’ll be blogging about the vibrant world of law that transcended the written record in colonial and contemporary Latin America. I begin with a reflection on the enduring legacy of the concept of the Lettered City in Latin America—the idea that bureaucratic writing served as an ordering tool of elite domination over the “illiterate” masses. The next post will consider the persistent practices of ordinary Latin Americans taking law into their own hands, copying legal manuals, contracts and other documents. Then I’ll be joined by a fellow historian of Lima to explore more deeply extrajudicial contracts and verbal agreements in the seventeenth century, followed by my reflections on how the promotion of paperless law, as opposed to written law and litigation, was fundamental to Spanish colonialism. Finally, I’ll conclude, along with another co-poster, with a reflection on paperless citizenship in early twentieth-century Cuba. 

So kick off those running shoes—who needs them?—and let me help you achieve your New Year’s goals.

--Bianca Premo