Substance and Relationality: Blood in Contexts

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This article examines the way bodily substance has been deployed in the anthropology of kinship. Analytically important in linking kinship with understandings of the body and person, substance has highlighted processes of change and transferability in kinship. Studies of organ donation and reproductive technologies in the West considered here challenge any simple dichotomy between idioms of a bounded individual body/person and immutable kinship relations in Euro-American contexts and more fluid, mutable bodies and relations elsewhere. Focusing on blood as a bodily substance of everyday significance with a peculiarly extensive symbolic repertoire, this article connects material properties of blood to the ways it flows between domains that are often kept apart. The analogies of money and ghosts illuminate blood's capacity to participate in, and move between, multiple symbolic and practical spheres—capacities that carry important implications for ideas and practices of relationality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-35
JournalAnnual Review of Anthropology
Early online date10 Jun 2011
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011


  • kinship
  • body
  • personhood
  • medical technologies
  • donation
  • symbolism


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