Why blood?

Because by the time you finish reading this, roughly a gallon of blood will have cycled through your body, thousands of scientists all over the world will have carried on their research on blood, and women, children, and men all over the world will suffer, triumph, fight, and die because of blood.

This blog records findings from archives and media, reflects on-going discussions in scholarship, science, and policy, and aims to bring together a diverse community of all those interested in blood. My work combines current topics with history, culture, always with a critical edge, a  thematic exploration, a relevant reference.

Whether I speak to trauma surgeons or medieval scholars, to rabbis or reenactors, to students or strangers, everyone has a story about blood. It is in us and with us, and we strive to understand it again and again. I have been focusing on the study of blood for over a decade now, and it never ceases to fascinate, invigorate, and humble me. I want to share this experience and the stories, puzzles, and the joy of all things blood with you.

“A German interested in blood! What a coincidence!” Of course not. Anybody who takes German history seriously–and I would extend this back to the legacy of emperors and tribes–can’t help but think about the social, political, and cultural implications of blood. Yet when I picked up on the topic, I initially thought it would remain limited to looking at imagery, but the topic soon expanded in all conceivable directions, times, and places. A lot has happened since then and today I seek out ways to expand my research in the service of institutions and individuals.

Because blood is always literally and metaphorically fluid and slippery, transgressive, and unstable it gives a fresh look on the old text and invites connections with the new in all these texts. With each decade, new challenges meet old fears and ways of conceiving of blood: blood transfusion, blood quantum laws, eugenics, Tuskeegee, Hepatitis C contamination during the Korean War, HIV/AIDS, menstrual hygiene, the transfusion rules of Jehova’s Witnesses, blood type diets, globalization of industrialized tissue economies.

Blood is uncontrollable, its meaning beyond individual attempts at redefinition. The attempts to define it nevertheless lead to remarkable, sometimes long-lasting shifts in what societies think blood means, like those between Galen and William Harvey, Bram Stoker and Anne Rice, Caravaggio and Hermann Nitsch, Karl Landsteiner and Ryoichi Naito, William Shakespeare and Tony Kushner, Benjamin Rush and Michele Ferrarinames and stories about what blood, is, and can be.

This conversation lies at the heart of my study and exceeds it by far. It is clear that the exchange between different disciplines, sub-fields, methods, and archives around blood indicates how one topic that bridges periods, regions, genres, authors, and theories. Without forgetting about the usefulness of these categories in beginning research, we can less narrowly conceive of genre, period, and author. A study of blood necessarily makes for strange bedfellows because it must draw on a wide array of historical sources, works of art, studies in the social sciences, religious studies, and medicine. Though narrowly focused in period and national focus, this study should indicate the many conversations the study of blood sets in motion.

By moving blood to the center of my work, I have to consider religious studies as well as the history of medicine, psychoanalysis, as well as nursing practices in hospitals, political theory as well as poetics. The result is a fascinating, ever-expanding network of new connections and insights. The blood of a nation is the blood of each body and the relation between this body and the blood around them, from nosebleed to nationalist chauvinism. Warding off orientalist fantasies of mastership, the deep study of blood can fruitfully intervene in existing scholarship and produce new fields of inquiry while always conscious of its inexhaustibility.

So what does blood mean to you? Are you seeking for an expert on the cultural and social history of all things blood? Are you looking to broaden your horizon or enter into a new field? Do you want to contribute to the endeavor and write a guest post for Blood Studies?

Just subscribe to this blog, but also find me on twitter @BloodStudies, on LinkedIn, or drop by on facebook.

Thank you for visiting Blood Studies, and I hope to hear from you.

 

 

 

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