Bound Lives Summary

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In Bound Lives, historian Rachel Sarah O’Toole argues that Peruvians of indigenous, African and mixed racial backgrounds used legal, religious and socioeconomic discourses to amass power, autonomy, and recognition in their communities while the Spanish élite of colonial Peru used their authority to control lesser non-whites. However, O’Toole uses legal, religious and political sources to argue that many non-white Peruvians broke, crossed and molded the court-mandated boundaries of castas, or racial groups, by accentuating traits, characteristics, and abilities that allowed them to advance socially. She argues that non-white Peruvians’ self-advocacy, inter and intra-communal relations and strategic acquiescence in performative exchanges allowed…show more content…
With their Catholic faith, many slaves designed a “soft” space of expression in the face of their participation in the “hard” institution of slavery. Racial fluidity in the colonial Peruvian institution of marriage sharply contrasts with the widespread conformity by people of color to the draconian judiciary system in league with influential planters in the southern United States. O’Toole argues that indigenous, African and mixed-race Peruvian laborers and slaves made use of familial and organizational networks to self-advocate for civil liberties within the semi-permeable Spanish colonial structure. Conversely, American slaves generally could not work within governmental bounds to fight for their rights, dishonorably shut out from society under the legal discourse of “social death.” In the southern United States, as Orlando Patterson articulated in Slavery & Social Death, the government used its code of “natal alienation” to force blacks to fall victim to its subordination of them. The racist U.S. government reinforced the powerlessness of slaves by denying their ties to both biological and nonbiological relatives and refusing to recognize civil unions of slaves as marriage. In colonial Peru, O’Toole points out that African slaves also received everyday abuse in the fields and masters’ residences yet socially impacted colonialism by joining the Catholic church, which counted them as Christians by canon law with Spanish subjects, therefore allowing them to marry each other and baptize their children. Moreover, racial mixture permeated casta boundaries in the northern port city of Trujillo, where the clerics of the indigenous parishes of Santa Ana and San Sebastian defended their right to marry indigenous people with mixed-race and black
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