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Justice in a New WorldNegotiating Legal Intelligibility in British, Iberian, and Indigenous America$
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Brian P. Owensby and Richard J. Ross

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781479850129

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479850129.001.0001

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“Sovereignty Has Lost Its Rights”

“Sovereignty Has Lost Its Rights”

Liberal Experiments and Indigenous Citizenship in New Granada, 1810–1819

(p.238) 8 “Sovereignty Has Lost Its Rights”
Justice in a New World

Marcela Echeverri

NYU Press

Echeverrí’s contribution to the volume, alone among the essays, crosses the temporal divide separating colonial from independence Latin America. She argues that liberal elites pushed for a notion of law and justice rooted in a principle of formal equality and sovereignty, one at odds with colonial ideas of vassalage and ideas of justice rooted in protection of the vulnerable from the powerful. In effect, Colombian elites articulated a vision undercutting indigenous collective rights in favor of individual rights as citizens. Natives, by contrast, continued to assert collective tribute obligations and to demand the king’s substantive justice in protecting corporate and community identities, as they had done for centuries prior to independence. Nevertheless, elites’ reliance on sovereignty to ground law redistributed power within the legal system in ways that challenged intelligibility and made it more difficult for people to defend communal rights.

Keywords:   justice, Latin America, liberal elites, Columbian elites, communal rights, sovereignty, vassalage, community identities, ground law, legal system

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