Katrina Jagodinsky is the 2015-2017 Harold and Esther Edgerton Associate Professor of History and joined the Department in 2012. She is a scholar of the North American West and examines marginalized peoples’ engagement with nineteenth-century legal regimes and competing jurisdictions. She spent a fellowship year at Southern Methodist University’s Clements Center for Southwest Studies before joining our department.
Jagodinsky’s recently completed book is the first in the prestigious Lamar Series in Western History from Yale University Press to make women its primary focus. Legal Codes & Talking Trees: Indigenous Women’s Sovereignty in the Sonoran and Puget Sound Borderlands, 1854-1946explains the strategies of six women seeking to protect their bodies, lands, and progeny from the whims of settler-colonists in the tumultuous process of westward expansion and conquest. The study expands the chronology of Indigenous women’s critique of colonial and exploitative legal regimes, illustrating both the longevity of laws making Indian women economically and sexually vulnerable, and the persistence of Native women’s innovative arguments against such oppressive legal systems. Jagodinsky has also published a number of articles and essays that examine the efforts of Indigenous and mixed-race women and children to leverage the American legal system in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. “A Testament to Power: Mary Woolsey and Dolores Rodriguez as Trial Witnesses in Arizona’s Early Statehood,” won the 2012-2013 Jerome I. Braun Prize for Best Article in Western Legal History.
Currently, Jagodinsky is preparing a study of marginalized westerners’ habeas corpus petitions in the territorial era. To demonstrate the innovative nature of such petitioners’ use of habeas corpus, she concentrates on petitions that challenged white citizens’ ownership of Black bodies, the federal and industrial criminalization of Asian bodies, Indian agents’ authority over Indigenous bodies, and men’s access to women and children’s bodies. Together these stories illustrate the contested nature of racial and gendered authority in the North American West and reveal the power of habeas corpus as an invaluable tool for the disfranchised.
Another ongoing project includes Laying Down the Law, a symposium and anthology project in collaboration with the Clements Center for Southwest Studies and the UNL History Department that Jagodinsky is co-editing with Pablo Mitchell of Oberlin College. The project will center its discussion on two deceptively simple questions: how have legal borderlands defined the North American West, and how have Westerners defined and/or challenged legal borderlands? Jagodinsky and other contributors’ answers to these questions will characterize the West as a place of many overlapping legal borderlands rather than a lawless place. Laying Down the Law should illustrate the importance of western legal history, in its myriad and complex forms, in American experience, history, and identity.
Jagodinsky is an active member of the profession, serving on the Western History Association’s Conference Program Committee in 2016-17 and 2014-15, the American Society for Legal History’s 2014 Conference Program Committee, and the Irene Ledesma Prize Committee for the Coalition for Western Women’s History since 2014.