Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Jane Burbank Article Prize to Premo & Yannakakis for "A Court of Sticks and Branches"

This year marked the first occasion on which the American Society for Legal History awarded the Jane Burbank Article Prize in global legal history. It is for "the best article in regional, global, imperial, comparative, or transnational legal history" published the previous year. The award went to Bianca Premo (Florida International University) and Yanna Yannakakis (Emory University) for “A Court of Sticks and Branches: Indian Jurisdiction in Colonial Mexico and Beyond,” American Historical Review, Vol. 124, No.1 (February 2019), pp. 28-55. Here's the formal citation:

“A Court of Sticks and Branches: Indian Jurisdiction in Colonial Mexico and Beyond” studies how jurisdiction was understood and produced by Mixtec actors in southern Mexico. Premo and Yannakakis’s case study of a land dispute between two rivaling villages show how communities adapted and translated imperial law and Iberian judicial practices into local understandings of jurisdiction, thereby inserting jurisdiction into the legal repertoires available to native peoples. The authors focus on a routine community dispute case that was never submitted to the jurisdiction of higher imperial authorities in Madrid or Rome, or even in the venerated General Indian Court of Mexico City. Rather, this dispute emerged in the outskirts of empire, and their study illuminates how people molded jurisdiction and litigiousness to their own cultural norms. Carefully researched and clearly written, readers see that jurisdiction at the edges of empire was much broader than indigenous people’s use of courts and recourse to the law. As the authors note, global legal orders may be studied through notarial documents and imperial codes, however "native subjects" built those orders—literally with "sticks and branches” on the muddy fields of a makeshift court in Teposcolula, Mexico.

The members of the Burbank Article Prize committee were Shaunnagh Dorsett, Michelle McKinley (Chair), Miranda Spieler, and Taisu Zhang.

Congratulations to Bianca Premo and Yanna Yannakakis!

-- Karen Tani