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Free women of color as property owners: The coloniality of power and the liminal racial space in Spanish, Louisiana, 1776-1811
Jacobs, Shayla Rekel
De Vos, Paula
Ben, PabloRobb, Erika
In colonial Spanish Louisiana (1760-1803) free women of color opened petitions relating to their property and Spanish courts granted their requests. These women accessed a degree of economic freedom in purchasing property and legal rights through opening court petitions that the previous French imperial legal system typically prevented. The Spanish, however, allowed free people of color some social flexibility, though Spanish American society in the American operated by customarily rigid racial system in order to maintain social and economic control throughout the region. Peruvian scholar Anibal Quijano explains this phenomenon as the European coloniality of power, a colonial capitalist system which categorized Europeans as racially and socially superior and Africans as inferior in order to control labor. The Spanish implemented their specific coloniality of power in the colonies, based on legal codes and social constructs. The resulting social system generally prevented the social advancement of those of African descent. However, the contradictory implementation of the law and the fluidity of ethnic heritage and mixture in Spanish colonial society allowed for a liminal racial space within which free people of color could advance socially. These contradictions rendered the preexisting legal codes and social constructs of the Spanish coloniality of power ambiguous, creating an uncertain liminal social and racial space, within which free women of color could experience the possibility of property ownership in Spanish Louisiana. This thesis explores the social and legal contradictions of the Spanish coloniality of power that allowed free women of color to experience a liminal racial space in relation to the acquisition or preservation of real property both during Spanish rule and after the Spanish relinquished the colony to the United States in 1803. Court petitions (1773-1788) and a title deed (1811) demonstrate that these women could acquire real estate during this period and successfully conduct business related to their property during Spanish rule. Thus, as property owners, free women of color operated within a liminal racial space of the Spanish coloniality of power, linking Spanish Louisiana to the Spanish Atlantic world.
Arts and Letters
San Diego State University
Master of Arts (M.A.) San Diego State University, 2019
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