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Paroma Chatterjee

"The Pastoral Roots of Byzantine Sovereignty"

Paroma Chatterjee

Visiting Scholar, Byzantine Studies

This project posits that Byzantine sovereignty, especially (but not exclusively) under the Macedonian dynasty, was shaped in relation to the pastoral dimensions of Davidic kingship, with an integral emphasis on the voice of the emperor, sometimes also styled as the voice of a poet/creator. (The term “pastoral” here is used in its classical sense and implies a flexible and contextual continuity of sorts from the ancient use to its later Byzantine deployment). Although it is well known that the Old Testament furnished models of rulers for the Macedonians, the bucolic (or pastoral) aspects of those models and their implications for the self-image of Byzantine sovereignty in general, has not been studied. These bucolic aspects are most pronounced in the visual repertoire, although written sources (chronicles and administrative documents, among others) evince them as well. The goal of the project is to examine both the overarching and fine-grained facets of the pastoral mode when it is used in the service of imperium and imperial image-making (sometimes in a diluted fashion, sometimes more forcefully) up to the 10th century CE in Byzantium.

Paroma Chatterjee is Professor of Byzantine and Medieval Mediterranean Art at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She has published two monographs with Cambridge University Press and articles in edited volumes and journals such as Art Bulletin, Art History, Word & Image, and RES, among others. She has been invited to present her research at various academic institutions in Europe, the USA, and, once, at a high school in her native Kolkata, India. She has been a Kress Fellow, a Dumbarton Oaks Junior Fellow, a Mellon postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, and at the Italian Institute at Columbia University. Most recently she was invited to be a fellow at the Max Weber Kolleg at the University of Erfurt, Germany. She is currently working on three separate projects: the role of the pastoral in Byzantine sovereignty; the significance of numbers in verbal descriptions of art in late antiquity; and the role of Byzantine art in the oeuvre and practice of Jamini Roy, one of the foremost modernist artists of South Asia.