Herbert P. Lefler Winter Lecture - Since Time Immemorial: Native Custom and Law in Colonial Mexico - Yanna Yannakakis
Indigenous peoples in colonial Mexico used Spanish imperial law to pursue their own ends, and in doing so, mobilized the past to make claims to resources and local autonomy. Indigenous legal claims based on “custom,” a category whose roots can be traced to medieval Europe, and which refers to social practice that over time acquires the normative power of law, represented one of the most important means by which Native people engaged with Spanish law. The adaptation of custom to Spanish rule in Mexico pushes to the fore questions of Indigenous cultural continuity and change under the exploitative conditions of colonialism. Although custom represented a Spanish imperial strategy for governing an ethnically and culturally diverse subject population, it also provided a terrain upon which Indigenous peoples could contend with historical change and generate new rights for the future.
Yanna Yannakakis is a Professor, Associate Department Chair, and Mentor Coordinator (Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, B.A. Dartmouth College) in the History department at Emory College of Arts and Sciences. She studies the social and cultural history of colonial Latin America, history of Mexico, ethnohistory, history of legal systems, and the interaction of indigenous peoples and institutions in Mexico.