UO law professor and CSWS affiliate Michelle McKinley is the 2014 winner of the Ligia Parra Jahn Award. This award is given for the best publication (book or article) on women’s history or publication written by a woman and published in 2014 that began as a Rocky Mountain Council for Latin American Studies (RMCLAS) presentation. Dr. McKinley was chosen as the winner for her Journal of Family History article: “Illicit Intimacies: Virtuous Concubinage in Colonial Lima.”
Dr. McKinley is the Bernard K. Kliks Professor of Law at the University of Oregon and a former advisory board member of the Center for the Study of Women in Society. She teaches immigration law and policy, refugee and asylum law. She publishes on public international law and Latin American legal history. Currently she is a fellow in residence at Princeton University, where she is working on her monograph on enslaved women in colonial Latin America and their attempts to litigate claims to freedom.
RMCLAS said in announcing the award: “Her article, Illicit Intimacies, joins a historiography of excellent gender and women’s history of the colonial period. Analyzing court cases of broken marriage promises, concubinage accusations, and attempts to secure child support from wayward fathers, McKinley also examines canon law on concubinage and the mostly uneven application of those laws in colonial Lima society. Her article describes the legal activism of plebeian actors–some free, some enslaved–to assert their virtue and make judges condone the respectable arrangement of concubinage as a precursor to marriage. However, McKinley also found that casta and enslaved actors were eager to denounce their peers to the Inquisition for living in illicit unions. In other words plebeian actors wielded the elite prescriptions and rhetoric of virtue when it could help their case or punish their commercial rivals, despised neighbors, the objects of their grudges. McKinley unravels a story that shows how complex it was for casta and enslaved men and women to navigate the legal system and ideologies of honor and virtue in a colonial society with varying degrees of freedom and ideas about what constituted a virtuous conjugal relationship.”