• Kimberly Anne Coles
  • Ralph Bauer
  • Carla L. Peterson
  • Zita Nunes


Social scientists, historians, and literary historians have struggled to explain why group identity and group difference were so often mapped onto the human body in pre-modern and early modern times, when biology was not yet available as an explanatory model; nonetheless, it is clear that the articulation of systems of social discrimination through a language of the body predates the emergence of biology as a science. The Cultural Politics of Blood surveys how conceptions of the blood— one of the four bodily fluids known as humors in the early modern period—permeate discourses of human difference from 1500 to 1900. In gathering this collection of essays, we explore how medical theory, at different points in Western history, has supported fantasies of human embodiment and human difference that serve to naturalize hierarchies already in place. We begin with the assumption that one of the most enduring and controversial signifiers of difference, namely that of “race,” is still under construction today and that our understanding of the term would profit through an engagement with its long, evolving, history. The essays here interrogate how fluid transactions of the body have been used to justify existing social arrangements over four hundred years in England and Spain and in the Anglo- and Ibero-Americas.


Sixteenth Century Humoral Theory Early Modern Period Human Difference Mechanical Philosophy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Kimberly Anne Coles, Ralph Bauer, Zita Nunes and Carla L. Peterson 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kimberly Anne Coles
  • Ralph Bauer
  • Carla L. Peterson
  • Zita Nunes

There are no affiliations available

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