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Signifying blood: illness, technologies, and interpretations (EN)
Claire Beaudevin (CNRS, Cermes3)
Susanne Ådahl (University of Turku)
Friday 13 July, 11:30-13:15 (UTC+0)

Short abstract:

Blood is linked to reproduction, ritual, identity, health… Following biomedical advances it is now carrying uncertainty (disease, harmful genes) and enabling kinship and survival (transfusion, blood testing). As a unit of analysis it will bring insights into the interpretations of illness.

Long abstract:

For long anthropologists have had an interest in the significations of human blood. As a classical substance put under scrutiny it has been linked to reproduction, ritual, identity, health, exchange, warfare, and mythical beliefs…

In contemporary society blood as a substance of import has gained new meanings as a result of developments in biomedicine and biotechnology. Blood is both a carrier of uncertainty and misfortune (disease and harmful genes), but also an enabler of kinship, relatedness and human survival (blood donation, transfusion, dialysis, blood testing). Turning our gaze and focus on to blood when talking of illness, we wish to invert the perspective to the micro-level of social reality. Using blood as a unit of analysis will bring different insights into the interpretations and experiences of illness.

In this panel we wish to bring together scholars interested in exploring the multiple and complex meanings of blood. Presentations can touch upon one or several blood related issues:

- how does the composition and content of blood impact on perceptions of self and identity?

- How are we through technology involved in a process of manipulation, enhancement and maintenance of the functions of the human body through the substance of blood?

- What are contemporary ritual uses of blood?

- How and in what contexts is blood used as a vehicle for understanding social reality?

- How can blood be linked to the concept of agency? Can blood be said to have agency? And, if so, how can this link be conceptualised?