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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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PRINTED FROM NYU Press SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.nyu.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of NYU Press Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NYSO for personal use.date: 24 September 2021

In Defense of Ignorance

In Defense of Ignorance

Frameworks for Legal Politics in the Atlantic World

(p.273) 9 In Defense of Ignorance
Justice in a New World

Lauren Benton

NYU Press

In this concluding perspectives essay, Benton counsels against the search for historical actors’ “understanding,” what they thought or knew about law. She warns that inadequate sources make difficult the recovery of what Natives and settlers believed about law, a problem compounded by their tactical use of “feigned mastery” and “studied ignorance.” Rather than seek the largely unrecoverable “understanding” of historical actors, scholars should instead reconstruct strategic behavior. Understanding, she concludes, was not a precondition to “intelligibility-through-practice,” which arose through negotiations and conflicts over such matters as jurisdiction and protection.

Keywords:   historical actors, feigned mastery, studied ignorance, strategic behavior, jurisdiction

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