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The Art of Bleeding: Memory, Martyrdom, and Portraits in Blood

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    Rights statement: © Copeman, J. (2013). The Art of Bleeding: Memory, Martyrdom, and Portraits in Blood. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 19(Supplement S1), 149-171. 10.1111/1467-9655.12021

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-171
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Issue numberSupplement S1
Early online date31 Mar 2013
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2013


This essay investigates the genre of the Indian blood painting, in which human blood is utilized as a medium of representation. It focuses, in particular, on the political and memorial functions of this kind of painting. Such paintings, often using the artist’s own blood, frequently depict ‘freedom fighters’ (or shaheed) who perished in the Indian struggle for Independence, and are intended to reawaken memories among the public of forgotten martyrs. In so doing they form a moral commentary on a nation which, in its millennial rush to embrace the future, all too easily forgets the sacrifices that brought it into being. The political and memorial functions of this form of portraiture are contextualized within the country’s wider sanguinary politics, which demonstrates the extent to which blood is both subject to and a means of contestation.

    Research areas

  • Art, Anthropology, South Asia, Nationalism, Blood

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