Roland Betancourt

Picture of Roland Betancourt
Chancellor’s Professor, Art History
School of Humanities
Affiliate Faculty, Religious Studies
Affiliate Faculty, Classics
B.A., University of Pennsylvania, History of Art, and Anthropology
M.A., Yale University, History of Art
M.Phil, Yale University, History of Art
Ph.D., Yale University, 2014, History of Art
University of California, Irvine
Art History Department
2000 Humanities Gateway
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
Byzantine Art, Visual Culture, and Theology; Critical Race Studies; Trans Studies; Queer Theory; Popular Culture; Theme Parks; Simulacral Spaces; History of Science and Technology
Academic Distinctions
Guggenheim Fellow, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2023-2024)
Chancellor's Fellow, UC, Irvine (2019-2022)
Elizabeth and J. Richardson Dilworth Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton (2016-2017)
Research Abstract
Roland Betancourt is a scholar of Byzantium and modern popular culture with research that lies firmly at the intersection of histories of science and technology, intellectual history, and the history of art. His research has explored theories of sensation and perception, the transmission of ancient knowledge, technical illustrations and diagrams, musicological analyses of texts and their recitation, and the premodern histories of queerness, gender variance, and racialization.

He is the author of Performing the Gospels in Byzantium: Sight, Sound, and Space in the Divine Liturgy (Cambridge, 2021), Byzantine Intersectionality: Sexuality, Gender, and Race in the Middle Ages (Princeton, 2020), and Sight, Touch, and Imagination in Byzantium (Cambridge, 2018), as well as several edited volumes and articles. Byzantine Intersectionality was a finalist for the Award of Excellence in the Study of Religion: Historical Studies by the American Academy of Religion. His teaching was recognized with a UCI School of Humanities Faculty Teaching Award in 2016. And, his research has been supported by several fellowships and grants, including the Elizabeth and J. Richardson Dilworth Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and a three-year Chancellor’s Fellowship at UCI.

Currently, he is the editor for the ICMA | Viewpoints book series at the Pennsylvania State University Press and for The Middle Ages book series at the University of Pennsylvania Press, as well as a member of the editorial and review boards of Exemplaria and Speculum. Betancourt also serves on the governing boards of the College Art Association, the International Center of Medieval Art, the Byzantine Studies Association of North America, the Medieval Academy of America, and the Medievalists of Color organization. His popular writing on the Middle Ages has appeared in The Washington Post, Scientific American, TIME, The Conversation, Literary Hub, and The Advocate.

Betancourt is working on several ongoing book projects, including A Plurality of Means: Disneyland and the Aesthetics of Automation, on how the modern theme park popularized the rise of industrial automation and its logics in the post-war period, and Queer, Byzantine: Camp, Excess, Aesthetics on queer dialogues between the Byzantine past and modern art, architecture, literature, and popular culture.
Awards and Honors
Finalist for the Award of Excellence in the Study of Religion: Historical Studies by the American Academy of Religion for Byzantine Intersectionality (2021)
Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture Publication Grant for Performing the Gospels in Byzantium (2020)
ICMA-Kress Grant for First Book Publication for Sight, Touch, and Imagination in Byzantium (2017)
School of Humanities Teaching Award, UC, Irvine (2016)
1st Prize for Conference Paper, Byzantine Studies Conference (2013)
The Secrets We Keep: Hidden Histories of the Byzantine Empire (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2024)
Sight, Touch, and Imagination in Byzantium (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018)
Co-Editor (with Evan Freeman), Byzantine Materiality (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2024).
Co-editor (with Maria Taroutina), Byzantium/Modernism: The Byzantine as Method in Modernity (Leiden: Brill, 2015)
“Icon, Eucharist, Relic: Negotiating the Division of Sacred Matter in Byzantium,” Byzantine Materiality, eds. Evan Freeman and Roland Betancourt (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2024)
(with Ambereen Dadabhoy), “Geographies of Race: Constructions of Constantinople/Istanbul in the Western European Imaginary,” Seeing Race Before Race: Visual Culture and the Racial Matrix in the Premodern World, eds. Noémie Ndiaye and Lia Markey (Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies Press, 2023).
“From Plane to Space: The Narrative Arc of Commentary in a Byzantine Mathematical Manual,” Practices of Commentary Special Issue, eds. Suzanne Conklin Akbari and Amanda Goodman, The Medieval Globe 8:2 (2023) [In Press]
“Automata, Kineticism, and Automation: An Oblique History of Animacy in the Art of the Long 1960s,” L’art medieval est-il contemporain? / Is Medieval Art Contemporary?, ed. Charlotte Denoël, Larisa Dryansky, Isabelle Marchesin, and Erik Verhagen (Turnhout: Brepols, 2023), 209-225.
“Foreword” for Michel Pastoureau, White: The History of a Color, trans. Jody Gladding (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2023), 3-4.
“The Colors of Metalworks: The Painted Materials of Machinery in Byzantium,” Illuminating Metalwork: Metal, Object, and Image in Medieval Manuscripts, eds. Joseph Salvatore Ackley and Shannon L. Wearing (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2022), 157-184.
“Neon Byzantium: Aesthetics without Iconography in Las Vegas,” Istanbul’da bu ne Bizantinizm! / What Byzantinism in Istanbul is this!, eds. Emir Alisik, Gülru Tanman, and Brigitte Pitarakis (Istanbul: Istanbul Research Institute, 2021), 20-55.
The Monuments We Privilege: or, How to Write an Ethical History of Byzantium,” YILLIK: Annual of Istanbul Studies 3 (2021): 171-176.
“Where Are All the Trans Women in Byzantium?,” Trans Historical: Gender Plurality Before the Modern, eds. Masha Raskolnikov, Greta LaFleur, and Anna Klosowska (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2021), 297-321.
“Bellicose Things: The Inner Lives of Byzantine Warfare Implements,” Word & Image 37:2 (2021): 160-177.
“Extended in the Imagination: The Representation of Architectural Space in Byzantium,” Architecture and Visual Culture in the Late Antique and Medieval Mediterranean. Studies in Honor of Robert G. Ousterhout, eds. Vasileios Marinis, Amy Papalexandrou, and Jordan Pickett (Turnhout: Brepols, 2021), 105-124.
The Exiles of Byzantium: Form, Historiography, and Recuperation,” Disturbing Times: Medieval Pasts, Reimagined Futures, eds. Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei, Catherine Karkov, Anna Klosowska (Brooklyn, NY: Punctum Books, 2020), 213-243.
Imperial Brutality: Racial Difference and the Intersectionality of the Ethiopian Eunuch,” Illuminated Manuscripts and the Global Middle Ages ed. Bryan Keene (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2019), 165-174.
"Beyond Foucault’s Laugh: On the Ethical Practice of Medieval Art History,” Postcolonising the Medieval Image, eds. Eva Frojmovic and Catherine Karkov (London: Ashgate, 2017)
"The Medium is the Byzantine: Popular Culture and the Byzantine," The Middle Ages in the Modern World, eds. Bettina Bildhauer and Chris Jones (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 305-338.
"The Icon's Gold: A Medium of Light, Air, and Space," West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture 23:1 (Fall-Winter 2016): 252-280.
"Why Sight Is Not Touch: Reconsidering the Tactility of Vision in Byzantium," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 70 (December 2016): 1-23.
Editor, “Imagined Encounters: Historiographies for a New World,” Special Issue, postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies 7:1 (Spring 2016).
"Genre as Medium on YouTube: The Work of Grace Helbig," The Journal of Popular Culture 49:1 (2016): 196-223.
Prolepsis and Anticipation: The Apocalyptic Futurity of the Now,” in A Companion to the Premodern Apocalypse, ed. Michael A. Ryan (Leiden: Brill, 2016), 176-204.
A Byzantine Liturgical Commentary in Verse: Introduction and Translation,” Orientalia Christiana Periodica 81:2 (2015): 433-472.
"The Thessaloniki Epitaphios: Notes on Use and Context," Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 55:2 (Summer 2015): 489-535.
Nikolaos von Andida” and “Theodoros von Andida,” in Lexikon byzantinischer Autoren, eds. Michael Grünbart and Alexander Riehle (Leipzig: Akademie Verlag, 2015) [Forthcoming]
Elizabeth and J. Richardson Dilworth Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton (2016-2017)
Chancellor's Fellowship, University of California, Irvine (2019-2022)
Guggenheim Fellow, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, 2023-2024
Andrew W. Mellon Professor, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA) at the National Gallery of Art, 2024-2026
Professional Societies
College Art Association (CAA)
Byzantine Studies Association of North America (BSANA)
International Center of Medieval Art (ICMA)
BABEL Working Group
Medievalists of Color (MoC)
Medieval Academy of America (MAA)
Other Experience
Editor, The Middle Ages series
University of Pennsylvania Press
Editor, ICMA Books | Viewpoints series
The Pennsylvania State University Press
Advisory Board
YILLIK: Annual of Istanbul Studies 2023—2027
Book Review Editor for Byzantine Studies
Speculum 2022—2025
Editorial Board, Gender and Sexuality in the Global Middle Ages series
Advisory Board
Exemplaria 2021—2025
Associate Editor
Afterimage 2018—2022
Board of Directors
Medieval Academy of America (MAA) 2023—2026
Board of Directors
College Art Association (CAA) 2021—2025
Governing Board
Byzantine Studies Association of North America (BSANA) 2020—2024
Board of Directors
International Center for Medieval Art (ICMA) 2021—2024
Steering Committee
Medievalists of Color (MoC) 2020—2023
Graduate Programs
Visual Studies
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