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Valuable Bodies and Rare Blood

Valuable Bodies and Rare Blood

(p.119) Six Valuable Bodies and Rare Blood
Blood Relations
Jenny Bangham
University of Chicago Press

As the Blood Group Research Unit and other labs defined new blood groups, interest flourished in “rare” blood. As the transfusion service intensified its recruitment efforts, it also put greater emphasis on the importance of blood groups—and some donors learned that their blood was especially rare and valuable. The “search for rare blood” charged transfusion with a new layer of drama, and became the plot of radio plays and films, including the popular Emergency Call. Rare blood captured the attention of newspapers, which enthusiastically publicized the pursuit of exceptional donors. But “rare blood” was never self-evident: a great deal of bureaucratic and technical work went into defining a person or specimen as exceptional. Chapter 6 describes how rare blood and highly prized donors were brought into existence through the bureaucracy and practices of the NBTS. Multiply transfused donors became highly valued living archives of antibodies that could disclose novel aspects of human serology and genetics. In other cases, people and samples were marked with racial categories, which changed their value to British serological geneticists. In these ways, the NBTS and Research Unit created identities for blood and its donors.

Keywords:   Blood Group Research Unit, rare blood, value, antibodies, multiply transfused donors, Emergency Call, newspapers, bureaucracy, race, identity

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