Clarice Lispector wrote: “There is no right to punish. There is only the power to punish.” Punishment may in fact be the originary power: one must claim the power to punish – to inflict pain in response to transgression – in order to hold any other kind of power. Thus, how a society understands punishment gets to the heart of its conception of its people, its world, and itself. This lecture will explore how thinkers – medieval to modern – have understood the theory and practice of punishment. I will address historical theories in order to construct the genealogy of our present understanding, much of which lies hidden under assumptions we no longer perceive.