Honor, Status, and Law in Modern Latin America

Honor, Status, and Law in Modern Latin America

Book Pages: 344 Illustrations: 4 tables Published: June 2005

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, History > Latin American History, Law > Legal History

This collection brings together recent scholarship that examines how understandings of honor changed in Latin America between political independence in the early nineteenth century and the rise of nationalist challenges to liberalism in the 1930s. These rich historical case studies reveal the uneven processes through which ideas of honor and status came to depend more on achievements such as education and employment and less on the birthright privileges that were the mainstays of honor during the colonial period. Whether considering court battles over lost virginity or police conflicts with prostitutes, vagrants, and the poor over public decorum, the contributors illuminate shifting ideas about public and private spheres, changing conceptions of race, the growing intervention of the state in defining and arbitrating individual reputations, and the enduring role of patriarchy in apportioning both honor and legal rights.

Each essay examines honor in the context of specific historical processes, including early republican nation-building in Peru; the transformation in Mexican villages of the cargo system, by which men rose in rank through service to the community; the abolition of slavery in Rio de Janeiro; the growth of local commerce and shifts in women’s status in highland Bolivia; the formation of a multiethnic society on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast; and the development of nationalist cultural responses to U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico. By connecting liberal projects that aimed to modernize law and society with popular understandings of honor and status, this volume sheds new light on broad changes and continuities in Latin America over the course of the long nineteenth century.

Contributors. José Amador de Jesus, Rossana Barragán, Sueann Caulfield, Sidney Chalhoub, Sarah C. Chambers, Eileen J. Findley, Brodwyn Fischer, Olívia Maria Gomes da Cunha, Laura Gotkowitz, Keila Grinberg, Peter Guardino, Cristiana Schettini Pereira, Lara Elizabeth Putnam


“[T]he volume offers a wealth of historical and ethnographic detail. . . . The strength of the book lies in the drawing together of studies from different parts of Latin America. . . . [T]he volume is further enriched by the inclusion of what is, for historians, an unusual but promising approach: that of including a (historical) analysis of literary works. . . . [T]he collection offers an effective yet insightful introduction to the theme of honour, and, more especially, the interplay between honour and the law.” — Tanja Christiansen, Journal of Latin American Studies

“[T]his is a very readable anthology highly recommendable for use in anthropology, history, and sociology courses concerning modern Latin America, even more so if such courses have a comparative emphasis. It is also valuable for courses on women studies. Both research and general libraries alike must add it to their collections.” — Victor M. Uribe-Uran, Colonial Latin American Historical Review

“The collection illustrates—in exciting and innovative ways—the vibrancy with which Latin Americans engaged ideas about citizenship, civil rights, equality, and justice and how changing conceptions of honor shaped ideas about the individual.” — Heidi Tinsman, Hispanic American Historical Review

“This fine anthology examines a key concept in Latin American history and culture: honour. . . . [T]his is a very interesting book that is well organized and historiographically up to date.” — Osvaldo Barreneche, Social History

“This fine collection of essays will definitely be of interest not only to historians of modern Latin American but also to those scholars of the human sciences who work on cognate issues of gender, honor, law, and the social construction of citizenship in other areas of the world.” — Eric Van Young, American Historical Review

“This is a fine anthology of essays focusing on struggles over status or honor in different historical settings and regions through Latin America. . . . All in all, this is a very readable anthology highly recommendable for use in anthropology, history, and sociology courses concerning modern Latin America, even more so if such courses have a comparative emphasis. It is also valuable for courses on women studies. Both research and general libraries alike must add it to their collections.” — Victor M. Uribe-Uran, The Americas

“This set of essays is an important contribution to the emerging literature on honour in the modern period and should be useful to anyone with an interest in the history of ideas.” — Sonya Lipsett-Rivera, Canadian Journal of History

"The editors have crafted a volume that is intellectually rigorous, lucid in argumentation, and timely in the application of scholarly ideas. Even better, the arguments of these essays run together to a degree that is rar in edited collections. . . . The result is a textual unity that makes for a satisfying read." — Joshua Rosenthal, History: Reviews of New Books

"All of the essays present fascinating analyses. . . . The editors have provided a substantial service to professors by pulling this particular set of articles together in a single English-language volume, reasonably priced . . . in the paper-back version. . . . The writing is generally accessible and colorful. . . . User-friendly and well-done." — Kif Augustine-Adams, Law and Politics Book Review

Honor, Status, and Law in Modern Latin America makes an important contribution to the historical understanding of ‘honor’ by examining its relationship to state formation, the law, sexuality, and racial mores. The creative and interesting essays, from scholars based both in Latin America and elsewhere, show the interplay of national and regional culture in how honor was understood and used in day-to-day social relations.” — Jeffrey Lesser, Negotiating National Identity: Immigrants, Minorities, and the Struggle for Ethnicity in Brazil

“This book will change how we view the long nineteenth century in Latin America, as it allows the reader to weave into the same cloth the two strands that ran through, respectively, the liberal state and postcolonial society, namely, the drive to form citizens and the desire to maintain status hierarchies.” — Teresita Martínez-Vergne, author of Shaping the Discourse on Space: Charity and Its Wards in Nineteenth-Century San Juan, Puerto Rico


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Sueann Caulfield is Associate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. She is the author of In Defense of Honor: Sexual Morality, Modernity, and Nation in Early Twentieth-century Brazil, also published by Duke University Press.

Sarah C. Chambers is Associate Professor of History at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of From Subjects to Citizens: Honor, Gender, and Politics in Arequipa, Peru, 1780–1854.

Lara Putnam is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Pittsburgh. She is the author of The Company They Kept: Migrants and the Politics of Gender in Caribbean Costa Rica, 1870–1960.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: Transformations in Honor, Status, and Law over the Long Nineteenth Century / Lara Putnam, Sarah C. Chambers, and Sueann Caulfield 1

I. Liberalism, Status, and Citizenship

Private crimes, public order: honor, gender, and the law in early republican Peru / Sarah C. Chambers 27

Community service, liberal law, and local custom in indigenous villages: Oaxaca, 1750–1850 / Peter Guardino 50

The “spirit” of Bolivian law: citizenship, patriarchy, and infamy / Rossanna Barragan 66

Interpreting Machado de Assis: paternalism, slavery, and the free womb law / Sidney Chalhoub 87

Slavery, liberalism, and civil law: definitions of status and citizenship in the elaboration of the Brazilian civil code (1855–1916) / Keila Grinberg 109

Trading insults: honor, violence, and the gendered culture of commerce in Cochabamba, Boliva, 1870s–1950s / Laura Gotkowitz 131

Sex and standing in the streets of Port Limon, Costa Rica, 1890–1910 / Lara Putnam 155

Slandering citizens: insults, class, and social legitimacy in Rio de Janeiro’s criminal courts / Brodwyn Fischer 176

Courtroom tales of sex and honor: rapto and rape in late nineteenth-century Puerto Rico / Eileen J. Findlay 201

The changing politics of freedom and virginity in Rio de Janeiro, 1920–1940 / Sueann Caulfield 223

III. The Policing of Public Space

The plena’s dissonant melodies: leisure, racial policing, and nation in Puerto Rico, 1900–1930s / Jose Amador de Jesus 249

Prostitutes and the law: the uses of court cases over pandering in Rio de Janeiro at the beginning of the twentieth century / Cristianna Schettini Pereira 271

The stigmas of dishonor: criminal records, civil rights, and forensic identification in Rio de Janeiro, 1903–1940 / Olivia Maria Gomes da Cunha 295

Contributors 317

Index 321

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3587-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3575-7
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