Law professor McKinley’s work on enslaved groups wins NSF grant
University of Oregon School of Law Associate Professor Michelle McKinley has won $50,000 from the National Science Foundation for her work on centuries-old lawsuits brought by enslaved groups in Peru.
McKinley’s research project, "Legal Mobilization of Enslaved Litigants: Ecclesiastical versus Civil Lawsuits," won a Law and Social Science Grant. Her project is a comprehensive survey, indexing and analyzing archived lawsuits brought by enslaved men and women in Lima, Peru, between 1543 and 1700.
McKinley hypothesizes that slave litigants' claims were often more successful in ecclesiastical courts than they were in secular courts because they were brought within a religious and legal context that was deeply ambivalent about the status of slaves as humans versus their status as property.
"The grant enables me to continue working on the line of research that demonstrates the major thesis of my book – that law matters," McKinley said. “Enslaved litigants took advantages of the fissures in the creaky edifice of colonial law to negotiate better terms for themselves and their offspring, and curbed their owner's unrestricted property rights over their slaves."
McKinley is a Dean's Distinguished Faculty Fellow and the Associate Dean for Faculty Development. She is the former managing director of Cultural Survival, an advocacy and research organization dedicated to indigenous peoples.