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November 17, 2011

Professor Michelle McKinley awarded 2011 Surrency Prize

The American Society for Legal History recently awarded Associate Professor and Dean’s Distinguished Faculty Fellow Michelle McKinley the 2011 Surrency Prize for her article, “Fractional Freedoms: Slavery, Legal Activism, and Ecclesiastical Courts in Colonial Lima, 1593-1689.” The article appeared in the Society’s Law and History Review 28:3.

The Surrency Prize is awarded annually to the author or authors of the best article published in the Law and History Review in the previous year. The award is based on the recommendation of the Surrency Prize Committee, comprised of legal scholars throughout the nation.

McKinley teaches Immigration Law, Public International Law, International Criminal Law, and Refugee and Asylum Law. She is the founder and former director of the Amazonian Peoples’ Resources Initiative; a community-based reproductive rights organization in Peru. In 2008, McKinley received grants from the American Philosophical Society and the Newberry Library in 2009, and she was awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities for the “Fractional Freedoms” book manuscript.

“Fractional Freedoms” examines the role of the Catholic Church in the law and legal institutions of Colonial Latin America, and how the experience of urban Hispanic slavery differed from slavery in North America. McKinley’s article stressed that law matters, and that legal traditions and religious institutions help mediate social relations based in uncontrolled power and material interests.

For the article, McKinley drew from ecclesiastical court records and sources in archival records from Peru, as well as secondary literature in multiple languages from three continents. The use of these sources was one of the many components of the article that impressed the Surrency Committee.

The Surrency Committee praised McKinley’s mastery of this transnational array of material covering many legal subjects, as well as the eloquence with which she drew from it to reconstruct daily life, intimate relations and societal norms in seventeenth-century Peru. “Fractional Freedoms” is commended as a work of social, cultural, and legal history that is sure to inform the way scholars think and write about slavery in the Americas.

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