Torture and the Moral Risks of Excess in Muscovite Witch Trials
Kivelson, Valerie - University of Michigan

2010-10-07 16:13:16-04:00
Ann Arbor, MI - University of Michigan - Tisch Hall Room 1014
Duration: 01:41:52

Torture was a routine part of formal Muscovite witchcraft and murder trials in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, yet its application outside of the court setting was considered a heinous violation of moral and legal norms. Muscovite moral and pragmatic reasoning drew the line at a loosely defined concept of “excess.” Torture within limits, exercised in authorized venues by designated officials, carried the sacral weight of tsarist justice; torture outside of those parameters was deemed a violation of the obligations of fundamental principles of social order. The definitions of justifiable and unjustifiable violence against the human body illuminate the pivotal structures of Muscovite society. In today’s world, when torture has reappeared as a widely accepted tool for interrogation, attempting to understand the logic and limits of the use of torture assumes new salience.

Introduction by Ron Suny, Director of the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies

Valerie Kivelson is Professor of History and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the university of Michigan.
She is the author of Autocracy in the Provinces: Russian Political Culture and the Gentry in the Seventeenth Century (Stanford University Press, 1997), and of Cartographies of Tsardom: The Land and Its Meanings in Seventeenth-Century Russia, (Cornell University Press, 2006), awarded the Bainton History and Theology Prize and the Held Prize for the Best Book by a Woman in Slavic Studies for 2007. She has co-edited three volumes of essays: The New Muscovite Cultural History: A Collection in Honor of Daniel B. Rowland, with Karen Petrone, Nancy Shields Kollmann, and Michael Flier (Slavica Publishers, 2009); Picturing Russia: Explorations in Visual Culture, with Joan Neuberger (Yale university Press, 2008); and Orthodox Russia: Studies in Belief and Practice, with Robert H. Green (Penn State University Press, 2003). She is currently finishing a book on Russian witchcraft, from which her talk derives.

 

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