Women’s Rights and Sovereignty/Autonomy

Negotiating Gender in Indigenous Justice Spaces

in Journal of Legal Anthropology
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  • 1 University of Texas at Austin sspeed@austin.utexas.edu
  • | 2 CIESAS-México mtsierrac@hotmail.com
  • | 3 University of Oregon stephenl@uoregon.edu
  • | 4 University of Cambridge jaj38@cam.ac.uk
  • | 5 University of Manchester heike.schaumberg@manchester.ac.uk

In recent years in both the United States and Latin America, indigenous peoples have taken increasing control over local justice, creating indigenous courts and asserting more autonomy in the administration of justice in their tribes, regions, or communities. New justice spaces, such as the Chickasaw District Courts in Oklahoma and the Zapatista Good Governance Councils in Chiapas, work to resolve conflict based largely on indigenous ‘customs and traditions.’ Many of the cases brought before these local legal bodies are domestic cases that directly involve issues of gender, women’s rights and culture. Yet the relationship between ‘indigenous traditions’ and women’s rights has been a fraught one. This forum article considers how these courts emerged in the context of neoliberalism and whether they provide new venues for indigenous women to pursue their rights and to challenge gendered social norms or practices that they find oppressive.


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