Accepted Paper:

Makings of togetherness in blood  


Vera Raivola (University of Eastern Finland)

Paper short abstract:

Successful blood banks have the ability to bring volunteers to meet in blood donation. To mobilize donors they perhaps deploy utopian narrative of a community sharing blood and values. The presentation asks, what utopian or dystopian imaginaries might a blood bank biobank evoke in blood donors?

Paper long abstract:

Voluntary blood donation can be seen to epitomize togetherness. Since blood became a therapeutic product, the question was how to engineer meetings of people as 'blood donors' who wish share their blood with others? Societies that organized sharing of blood through welfare state institutions, argued Titmuss (1970) had the advantage they could effectively mobilize people's natural propensity to togetherness. A voluntary blood collection system brings things and people together through moral economy of reciprocal and inclusive community relationships. In this framework, enactments of blood donation, and the norms and practices of institutionalized blood circulation have power to materialize the 'social body' and render togetherness observable for members of an 'imagined community' (Cohn 2016, Busby 2010). However, the reality of blood processing and use has since Titmuss diverged from his 'vein-to-vein' ideal type. Some question is it still right to use such utopian imaginary of shared blood and national solidarity to mobilize donors (Walby and Mitchell 2006)?

Starting from this context, my case study looks at how blood donors for the Finnish Red Cross Blood Service (FRCBS) understand blood donation as material and moral togetherness when their local blood bank also becomes a biobank. Now FRCBS blood donors are given an opportunity to 'extend help' by also giving blood samples and personal information to scientific, mostly genomics, research. This time it is the need to shared n data that drives efforts to bring voluntary donors together, but has this quest the same utopian powers and are there new dystopian features involved?

Panel C17
Moving together: problematizing the makings of togetherness