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A workshop at The University of Adelaide


Image: Rudolf von Ems, Moses Changing the Water of the Nile into Blood (Ms. 33 (88.MP.70), fol. 73v, Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany​, about 1400–1410,​ Getty Museum​

Date: Monday 2 November 2020
Venue: Napier Building, The University of Adelaide, North Terrace campus (and streaming online via Zoom).
Time: 9:15 am–5:00pm (registration from 8:45 am)
Registration: Free admission. Please register online. Please note: Due to Covid-19 restrictions the event will not be catered, however food and refreshments can be purchased on campus.
Enquiries: katie.barclay@adelaide.edu.au

Download a copy of the Workshop programme 


Blood flows through bodies, seeps outwards, transmits information across generations. Both as a product of bodies and as a symbol, blood has done significant work in the cultural imaginary. The blood that connects family – once marked by physical resemblance and now by DNA tests – has been critical to its boundaries, as well as to ideas of lineage and immortality. As an inherited quality, blood could be good, bringing noble qualities, or bad. For some eugenicists, blood was central to perfecting animals and humans. Early modern Europeans routinely consumed blood products, both human and animal; some sought its magical and life-giving properties for health and fortune. Modern medical practices reimagined blood; but blood transfusions and diseases remain significant to our interpretation of illness and its treatment – blood tests are a key mechanism of diagnosis, promising insight into the internal workings of the body. Menstrual blood in contrast was the taint of original sin; if its presentation on sheets could be used as a mark of ongoing chastity every month, it was also associated with woe and leaky, seepy bodies. Later, menstrual blood was marked by shame, something to be hidden, or ‘women’s business’, not for public consumption. The significance of blood can also be seen in its magical qualities. Blood when presented on a murder weapon, or marking a crime scene, enables a certain horror, as well as ample forensic evidence for an investigator. Vampires and other blood-sucking creatures were and are a key literary device, suggestive of the ongoing relationship between blood, mortality and longevity. Blood as an art form does significant ‘emotional work’ in guiding audiences.

This workshop, organised by the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, brings together scholars from across disciplines to re-examine these diverse histories of blood, from antiquity to the present day. Tickets are available for the panel discussions at the The University of Adelaide's North Terrace campus, and the event will be broadcast live over Zoom. Admission is free, though bookings are essential – please register your interest at our Eventbrite page.