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Organizing and Mapping Global Blood Groups

Organizing and Mapping Global Blood Groups

(p.156) Eight Organizing and Mapping Global Blood Groups
Blood Relations
Jenny Bangham
University of Chicago Press

Chapter 8 examines how Mourant and his colleagues at the Nuffield Blood Group Centre collated, abstracted, ordered, racialized, and represented blood group data. It argues that “population data” were not simply given, but were made through public health, colonial and post-colonial institutions, and by the labor and expertise of research subjects, assistants, and interlocutors. Mourant and his correspondents constructed “populations” in strikingly different ways, depending on whether data were collected overseas or from Britain's National Blood Transfusion Service. This chapter explores the steps through which Nuffield Blood Group Centre workers abstracted and ordered data on index cards and in published tables, and how they used racial, tribal, national, and religious categories to give it shape and meaning. Focusing on Mourant’s first major book, The Distribution of the Human Blood Groups (1954), it follows the creation of remarkable geographic maps, in which human population groupings dissolved, leaving an apparently geographical, apolitical genetic topography. Genetics (the maps argued) was about not the politics of the British Empire, or the complexities of race relations, but a deep historical past. Using analytical and representational strategies, Mourant constructed blood groups as “objective,” credibly “genetic” and understood as relevant to human ancestry, race, and history.

Keywords:   Nuffield Blood Group Centre, human populations, The Distribution of the Human Blood Groups, geographic maps, race, data, research subjects, interlocutors, history

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