“Disfigurement, Disability, and the Dangers of Punishment in Byzantium: The Case of Punitive Blinding”
Jake Ransohoff, Mary Seeger O'Boyle Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Fri, 11/10 · 12:00 pm—1:20 pm · 103 Scheide Caldwell
The Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies
This talk is about punishment and exclusion in the Byzantine world. It focuses on a particular penalty—blinding—commonly used to disqualify victims from positions of political leadership. But despite its official justification as a merciful alternative to death, “political” blinding in Byzantium often backfired and provoked popular opposition. Drawing on insights from disability studies, this talk examines the sightless body an unstable site of meaning: whether it reflected the compassion, or the injustice, of the state remained an open question. It is precisely blinding’s tendency to provoke contestation and controversy that makes it revealing of the most persistent tensions within Byzantine society across time.