This dissertation examines marital relations, and specifically marital conflicts, in early colonial Lima in order to analyze gender and power in the Spanish Empire. Through my reading of cases held before the ecclesiastical tribunal, I show how wives and their supporters resisted and questioned husbands’ authority primarily through reifying of patriarchal norms, in the form of the ideals of manhood. Rather than challenges based on the perceived rights of women, the citing of failures of marital masculinity dominated the discourse of these trials. This marital masculinity encompassed the nature, characteristics, and actions expected of a married man. This manhood was rooted in broader early modern Catholic ideals and comprised expectations of provision, protection, and fidelity. In addition to following Church prescriptions on appropriate behavior for men, the patriarchal expectations found in these cases involved upholding the racial hierarchy of colonial society. Wives and witnesses highlighted instances such as the use of racial epithets and infidelity that crossed racial lines as further failures to live up to the masculine ideal. This dissertation approaches the dynamics of gender domination from a number of perspectives. In chapter 1, I examine the petitions by women seeking a divorcio (ecclesiastical divorce which dictated the separation of bed and board) and analyze how they criticize their husbands for falling to fulfill their marital masculinity. Chapter 2 shows how mothers and brothers intervened in marital conflicts and reveals their investment in gendered authority. Looking beyond parents and siblings, chapter 3 highlights how community members, and especially neighbors and enslaved Africans, helped to police the duties of husbands through their testimonies to the court. Chapter 4 analyzes the conflicts between married slaves and their masters over relocation that would separate the couple to further demonstrate the link between race and manhood, one in which white masculinity trumped black masculinity. Throughout these trials, arguments based on marital masculinity proved to limit the power of patriarchs, namely husbands, but, as I demonstrate, did little to mitigate the extent of gender domination ingrained in the patriarchal structures of Lima and the broader Spanish Empire, as the patriarchal authority shifted from husbands to Church officials.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2015. Major: History. Advisor: Sarah Chambers. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 183 pages.
Wisnoski III, Alexander.
Contesting Husbands and Masters: Law, Society, and the Marital Household in Colonial Lima.
Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
Content distributed via the University of Minnesota's Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor.