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Blood and Kinship

Blood and Kinship: Matter for Metaphor from Ancient Rome to the Present

Christopher H. Johnson
Bernhard Jussen
David Warren Sabean
Simon Teuscher
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 362
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  • Book Info
    Blood and Kinship
    Book Description:

    The word "blood" awakens ancient ideas, but we know little about its historical representation in Western cultures. Anthropologists have customarily studied how societies think about the bodily substances that unite them, and the contributors to this volume develop those questions in new directions. Taking a radically historical perspective that complements traditional cultural analyses, they demonstrate how blood and kinship have constantly been reconfigured in European culture. This volume challenges the idea that blood can be understood as a stable entity, and shows how concepts of blood and kinship moved in both parallel and divergent directions over the course of European history.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-750-9
    Subjects: History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)
    David Warren Sabean and Simon Teuscher

    Cultural assumptions about how kinship is related to physiology and sexual reproduction have come in for reexamination in light of a series of new issues. The rapid acceleration in decoding DNA together with progress in reproductive technologies has brought renewed interest in the biological dimensions of parenthood, heredity, and filiation. Around such questions as medical genealogies, paternity testing, new reproductive technologies, and race-specific medicine, a new direction in social anthropological research has developed, calling itself the “New Kinship Studies.”¹ This renaissance in research also comes in the aftermath of the 1984 critique by David Schneider, which had already destabilized kinship...

  6. Chapter 1 Agnatio, Cognatio, Consanguinitas: Kinship and Blood in Ancient Rome
    (pp. 18-39)
    Ann-Cathrin Harders

    In her autobiography,A Backward Glance,first published in 1934, Edith Wharton takes the reader to the New York of her birth in the 1870s:

    My mother, who had a hearty contempt for the tardy discovery of aristocratic genealogies, always said that old New York was composed of Dutch and British middle-class families, and that only four or five could show a pedigree leading back to the aristocracy of their ancestral country. These if I remember rightly, were the Duers, the Livingstons, the Rutherfurds, the de Grasses and the Van Rensselaers (descendants, these latter, of the original Dutch “Patroon”).… My...

  7. Chapter 2 The Bilineal Transmission of Blood in Ancient Rome
    (pp. 40-60)
    Philippe Moreau

    During the past several decades, historians of Rome have been considering a series of questions raised by anthropologists about the symbolic meanings of bodily humors, especially blood. It is becoming evident that in ancient Rome, blood—the fluid substance linked with filiation and the transmission of identity—was the object of a set of perceptions much more complex than used to be thought.¹ Useful studies comparing the biblical and patristic conceptions have been conducted by the Centro Sanguis Christi in Rome, but the principal contribution is the remarkable work of Gianni Guastella, to which can be added the study by...

  8. Chapter 3 Flesh and Blood in Medieval Language about Kinship
    (pp. 61-82)
    Anita Guerreau-Jalabert

    The reference to blood as a symbolic support for the link between certain categories of kin is currently of common usage, at least in some European languages, and historians generally employ it without further reflection. With regard to the language of anthropology, both English and French have retained the termsconsanguinity/consanguinité,which come from the Latinconsanguinitas,to designate the tie that unites individuals who recognize a common ancestor. One fact has become clear: in Western Europe, at least since Roman times, filiation was transmitted and described by blood.

    Yet a somewhat careful observation of medieval data reveals a more...

  9. Chapter 4 Flesh and Blood in the Treatises on the Arbor Consanguinitatis (Thirteenth to Sixteenth Centuries)
    (pp. 83-104)
    Simon Teuscher

    One might think that kinship in pre-modern Europe, despite its importance in practice, has never become a prominent subject of philosophical thought. While there is an ancient—and to this day uninterrupted—Western tradition of writing books with titles such asDe amicitiaorDe amore, On FriendshiporOn Love,there are no comparable classics calledDe cognatione, On Kinship.Since the High Middle Ages, there has been, however, a tradition of systematic reflection on kinship in the context of the Catholic prohibitions of sexual intercourse among kin. I am thinking of commentaries on the kinship diagrams that lawyers...

  10. Chapter 5 Discourses of Blood and Kinship in Late Medieval and Early Modern Castile
    (pp. 105-124)
    Teofilo F. Ruiz

    Among the many definitions of the wordsangre(blood) found in the influentialDiccionario de autoridades(1737), one of them issangreas synonymous withalcuña(alcurniain modern Spanish, meaning ancestry or lineage). The entry cites both a Latin life of the Emperor Julian and a medievalcancionero(collection of lyrical poetry) of the mid fifteenth century as testimony for equating blood with lineage or kinship.¹ More to the point, the discussion of blood glosses a well-known phrase in Spanish (Castilian) literature, “la sangre se hereda y el vicio se apega” (blood is inherited and vice is acquired), stating...

  11. Chapter 6 The Shed Blood of Christ: From Blood as Metaphor to Blood as Bearer of Identity
    (pp. 125-143)
    Gérard Delille

    In the numerous crucifixions, depositions, and entombments he painted between the second half of the fifteenth and the first decade of the sixteenth centuries, Giovanni Bellini at times used the color red to represent the blood of Christ spilt on the ground (Dead Christ,Milan, Poldi Pezzoli Museum), and at other times, a whitish gray (Dead Christ Supported by Angels,Venice, Correr Museum). This different treatment was not the result of any desire on his part for artistic experimentation, but rather, more simply, was an attempt to meet the contrasting demands of the clients who had commissioned the paintings: “those...

  12. Chapter 7 Descent and Alliance: Cultural Meanings of Blood in the Baroque
    (pp. 144-174)
    David Warren Sabean

    Alliance and descent are the two axes around which I want to think through the different configurations of kinship during the seventeenth century, as evidenced for the most part in literary texts from both the sacred and secular sides of French society. An examination of many such texts suggests that the treatment of blood theologically resonated with models of social circulation and with how people were or could be connected with each other. On the one hand, there is the question of descent, and its corollaries heredity, inheritance, and succession, the axis of relations that works downward from parents to...

  13. Chapter 8 Kinship, Blood, and the Emergence of the Racial Nation in the French Atlantic World, 1600–1789
    (pp. 175-195)
    Guillaume Aubert

    Some thirty-five years ago, Michel Foucault famously characterized Ancien Régime society as a “society of blood … of sanguinity.” Invoking the centrality of “systems of alliance,” the “value of descent lines” and “the differentiation into orders and castes” in structuring “the mechanisms of power,” he cast Ancien Régime blood as “a reality with a symbolic function.” For Foucault, seventeenth- and especially eighteenth-century “symbolics of blood” prefigured the emergence of nineteenth-and twentieth-century “racism in its modern biologizing statist form.” In this narrative, the “modernity” of racism proceeded from the reinscription of “blood” in a “new technology of sex” when “sex became...

  14. Chapter 9 Class Dimensions of Blood, Kinship, and Race in Brittany, 1780–1880
    (pp. 196-226)
    Christopher H. Johnson

    The problematic examined here concerns the shift in the discourse ofblood—as a term connecting individuals—from kinship to race in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century France. I argue that a decline in the use of the wordblood(sang) to define the relatives and antecedents of one’s parents is perceptible among bourgeois and nobles alike in the later eighteenth century. This phenomenon corresponds with the horizontalization of kinship practices and the growth of consanguineal marriage, which blurs the distinction between consanguines and affines. Simultaneously, the language of kinship is appropriated by the discourse of nation and race, and blood becomes...

  15. Chapter 10 Nazi Anti-Semitism and the Question of “Jewish Blood”
    (pp. 227-243)
    Cornelia Essner

    Anti-Semitism was the core of thevölkischmovement that emerged with the foundation of the German Empire in 1871. A strange mixture of nationalistic and religious ideas, it was spread by various associations and federations that excluded members of “Jewish blood.” All these relatively small organizations sought a new religion that would arise from the depths of the “German soul.” This search for a German religion of the future implied the renunciation of traditional Christianity: theVölkischecalled either for purification from Jewish roots—and in consequence proposed an “Aryan Christ”—or for a total, neo-pagan renunciation of Christianity because...

  16. Chapter 11 Biosecuritization: The Quest for Synthetic Blood and the Taming of Kinship
    (pp. 244-265)
    Kath Weston

    The dream of synthesizing blood is an old one.¹ Since at least the seventeenth century, physicians, naturalists, merchants, military planners, and more recently biotechnology firms have searched for an industrially manufactured, easily replicable, non-toxic replacement for human blood, variously figured as “synthetic blood,” “artificial blood,” or a “blood substitute.”² They have experimented with polymerized hemoglobin and perfluorocarbons, platelets, and plasma, looking for ways to address issues of compatibility, infection, religious restrictions, storage, and scarcity that attend the redistribution of blood from body to body.

    By the early twenty-first century, blood that was both manufactured and marketable remained a dream, perpetually...

  17. Chapter 12 Articulating Blood and Kinship in Biomedical Contexts in Contemporary Britain and Malaysia
    (pp. 266-284)
    Janet Carsten

    My contribution to this volume on kinship and blood arises from research that aims to investigate blood as an object rather than as a particular domain of practices.¹ The research highlights the pathways along which blood travels, crucially, between areas of knowledge and practice that we think of as “scientific” or “biomedical,” and those that are apparently more “social”—such as kinship, ethnicity, or religion. As the chapters in this volume demonstrate, blood is in many cultures and at different historical junctures a core symbol of kinship, ethnicity, and religion. It is also a scientific or medical object of investigation,...

  18. Chapter 13 From Blood to Genes? Rethinking Consanguinity in the Context of Geneticization
    (pp. 285-306)
    Sarah Franklin

    Kinship has returned to the pages of anthropology journals with a vengeance, but also with a twist. With the revitalization of one of its hallmark concepts, anthropology is once again plunged into controversy about blood, genes, inheritance, descent, and reproductive biology—just as in its founding throes a century ago, although today with a greater focus on industrialized societies, and on the role of biomedicine and the new genetics.¹ Central to this reconfiguration of kinship studies is a resurgence of interest in European societies within social anthropology, as well as a re-examination of the concepts of the biological and the...

  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 307-333)
  20. Contributors
    (pp. 334-337)
  21. Index
    (pp. 338-357)