Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Rare Blood Types and Border Crossings

This recent article on people with rare blood types and the network of blood donations raises some interesting questions about how embodied materials cross borders.

How do global networks deal with the complexities of blood crossing borders, especially when rare blood is required to save lives and must be transported quickly?  Thomas, one of the men with a rare blood type who regularly donates his blood, must drive across the Swiss-French border from his home in Switzerland in order to donate, because Switzerland does not have a frozen blood bank to store his blood, so if he donated in Switzerland, the bureaucratic channels necessary to send his blood from Switzerland to France would render the blood no longer viable.  In a world where blood has become a medium of economic exchange and a key material in the global health industry, are our systems of governance inadequate to the task?

Similarly, as bodies draw increased attention in the scholarship of global politics, especially related to questions of mobility and borders, we must reflect on body parts and bodily fluids as key components of the international.  Blood, for example, literally runs through all aspects of global politics; it is that which is required for global health regimes and that which is spilled in the name of security.

What strikes me as most interesting about this article is the reference to the cataloguing of rare blood--after all, there is an American Rare Donor Program that is a database of all rare blood donors in the US.  For individuals with rare blood, their bodily materials are literally the stuff of legend, so rare that it becomes 'the golden blood,' but our global and national systems of regulation of blood mobility don't seem to have caught up with innovations in the medical field.