7-9 September. Blood and Honor

This week we discussed the ways in which blood corresponds with honor, and how these are intertwined with religion–in particular, with Christianity–capital, gender, state, and race. We considered how these correspondences change, or not, in history, and how they are integral in particular to the formation of the Vampire States of Spain and the United States.

Choose one of these points of correspondence and comment how it helps you articulate a clearer vision of strength, purity, and the body to better understand Latinas and religion. Try to post your blog entry by Sunday at noon.

9 replies on “7-9 September. Blood and Honor”

Blood ties are not only applied in the physical sense to shared blood in familial ties; it has been applied to ethnicity and religion as well. The moment blood becomes attached to such ties, it is no longer shared blood in the literal sense. A religious “blood tie,” for instance, is like metaphorically attaching an abstract concept to the tangible object of blood.

So I wondered, why blood? Why is “blood” connected to politics, religion, or race? Perhaps it is because historically, it was blood that was spilled when one or more of these differences came in conflict with another group with different ties. Hence, the object which tied people together and kept them from killing another was because they had some form of connection in figurative or literal “blood. (although in my personal opinion, differences should never be a reason to be violent to anyone–but history indicates otherwise)

When considering the capital of blood, the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 is one example of this. They were told that they and their children (their blood—or the extension of it in the literal sense) must leave unless they converted to Catholicism (“pure” blood). This was considered a strategic maneuver to create a church state unified under the power of the Catholic monarchy. However, even after they “converted,” because they were not people of “clean” blood, (Christian of origin), they were considered “second class citizens.”

This is similar to what Padilla states in “Latinas and Religión: Subordination or State of Grace?” from the discussion last week. Even after native Náhuatls converted to Catholicism, they were still considered “second class” because European blood was considered superior. In other words, there seems to be a hierarchy of blood. “Racial” blood ties seemed to supersede “religious” blood ties when religión was shared. Furthermore, this exemplified the capital of blood in that converting Nahuatls was only one of the implications of European imperialism beginning in the 15th century (others including monetary gain, land claiming etc.)

When it comes to gender, the blood of a man’s family line supersedes that of a woman. A daughter was historically (and still is in different parts of the world) the property of her father. She then becomes the property of her husband or her brother if her husband dies. In this way, the capital of blood comes into play in that the woman is part of an economic transaction to further the bloodline of her family.

There is also the sense that just as blood implies people who are “inside” a group (race, religión, political party), to go outside this community would be considered abnormal or even hostile at worst. Hence, when a woman leaves the home and her “traditional role” inside the customs of her cultural “group” to become a “public woman”, it is considered abnormal. Even in the physical sense, blood has been considered normal when inside the body. It is “abnormal” when it is out of the body. (This perhaps implies the taboo around menstruation as well)

After reflecting on all this, it makes me realize that blood ties are complicated, and its implications to gender, politics, religion, and race are interrelated. Hence, is it possible to maneuver in a world outside of blood ties? Perhaps cutting a tie may indeed lead to the death of these traditional ties and systems. However, it may also initiate the start of a new vein and with it, new life.

This past week’s focus between honor and blood, and especially how these two values have tied into the constitution of latin bodies and religion, but also how they are apparent in our current day was informative and important to discuss. I appreciated exploring the politics of blood and how important the role of blood is in culture and kinship when we discussed Anidjar’s reading on blood and Christianity. I thought it was interesting to hear my peer’s ideas how blood played a historical role and its influence on ethnicity, and even the discussion of flesh as well. In regards to Anidjar’s Vampirical State reading, I thought it was particularly interesting to talk about blood in terms of a metaphor of the worm. The opening passages that discussed part versus whole communicated concepts of subconsciously acting in a state of part vs. whole in addition to a general unawareness about the part vs. whole complex that we live through everyday in society. Although we focused much on our current state in society and current pertinent matters such as police brutality, it was essential to tie together these concepts of honor, blood, kinship, and loyalty from the historical perspective to how it plays our in our current day. I look forward to further discussions on such pertinent, yet tough current societal matters.

Prior to this past week’s discussion and before reading Anidjar’s work, I had a quite different idea of what blood could mean within the context of Latinas and Religion. As we know, blood is highly symbolic and one of the symbols I most associated blood with was the figure of Jesus, the cross, and sacrifice. This image is something I grew up learning about and in this case, blood represented renewal, rebirth, and to some extent protection. It was interesting for me to see a different way blood ties into Christianity – particularly Christian states – and how it is also a symbol for kinship, race, and religion.
One idea that stood out the most to me from Anidjar’s piece on State was the “synecdoche” of blood. Anidjar writes that “Blood comes to be regarded as what distinguishes and discriminates between parts and wholes” and can be falsely seen as a whole. (82) At first, I was unsure what it meant for blood to only embody part of the whole but his example of the moment where made it clear. The example Anidjar gives, straight from the history of blood, is the moment in which a “(family or tribe, clan or nation) can be isolated, separated, and singled out… by the way of blood.” (83) This is the moment where he claims blood to not be something unifying but rather something used to mark differences and distance individuals. This ties into his point in the Hemo Politicus section of how blood functions as a liminal marker. Blood workers as the border, the place where you stop being something and start being something else. In this case, this “something” is closely tied to race, ethnicity, and religion. As Anidjar later elaborates, “Blood makes and marks difference, an allegedly universal difference inscribed between bloods.” (86)
The concept of blood as something that distinguishes people is very intriguing when we use it to discuss Latinas and Religion. In the section Bloods of Race, Anidjar mentions something we discussed in class which is the obsession with “clean lineages” and then questions “Are not Spaniards (and Latinos after them) a people with ‘blood on their mind’?”(113) This is something that stood out to me particularly because, although Latinos may share blood through a shared ethnicity, there still is this idea of a Vampire State of its own within the community. Colorism and anti-Blackness are atrocities the Latinx community are not exempt from. In fact, it is a huge problem. The disregard of Indigenous communities and their religions and practices is another issue within the Latinx community that is so prominent. These are just two ways we see how blood is used, in this case to discriminate, today and must be discussed when we discuss Latinas because this term encompasses way more individuals than often regarded.

The correspondence that I most understood to be linked to the Christian religion is the involvement between blood and gender. Specifically, how the dimension of menstruation represents a threat to the individual because it marks the entrance of the body into a public space. This admittance into the public sphere is marked by an ability to reproduce. In class, we discussed how it is considered shameful for a woman to bleed out during menstruation or even the subject is deemed as disgraceful to discuss in society. The presence of menstruation is linked with a Latinx idea of purity and honor. There is honor in the sense that a woman will keep menstruation a private matter and conserve purity in the holy idea of reproducing. In this case, reproduction through a marriage blessed by God or the divine.
The concept of Latinas’ purity contributes to the Vampire States of Spain with the Honor Code. Spanish Honor Code deemed a woman the property of the father, unless there was an absence, in which case the owner of the family estate would possess the woman. Honor was to be achieved for the family only if the woman agreed to follow through with the male’s desires. If not, the concept of honor for Latinas would be broken and shame would be brought to the family name. Furthermore, due to this oppression, many women decided to get away to convents for cultural purposes rather than economic/political motives. Then again, this relates back to an idea of distinction between kinship and character. In class, we discussed how kinship is the blood you have while character is the blood you make. For me, the women of this time period were tired of society’s reliance on kinship that they decided to venture out and become an independent individual through their personal character.

The relationship amongst Christianity, religion, capital, gender, the state, and race helped me further understand Latinas and religion because it showed me the impact that a simple tangible object can have on religious relations, economic transactions, traditional gender roles, the agendas of the state, and racial perceptions. This understanding stems from the following statement Dr. Carrion said in class, “Blood is nothing, but when we give it attention we become vampires.” In religion, blood becomes a tie amongst all believers of that religion creating a bond that extends past the traditional familial bond. In regards to Latinas, many times traditional gender roles and religion combine to place limitations on Latina agency and keep her confined to the role of the mother, the child-bearer who’s sole purpose is to be subordinate and produce children as to continue the physical blood tie while being bound by blood to her owner, to her husband. Her blood is only important, then, when discussed in relation to others as a Latina menstruating—a phenomenon of which she produces on her own—is considered taboo and makes her undesirable.

In extension to the combined religious and gender roles, economic transactions come into play as the daughter of that Latina will be expected to allow her parents to sell her to her future husband as to continue a physical bloodline, keep the daughter from becoming a “public woman,” and perpetuate heterosexual ideals. With the agenda of the state blatantly ignoring the violences experienced by Latinas within these constricted roles and burdened by unrealistic expectations, the blood of Latinas, again, is in itself not considered of value. These experienced violences could be prevented by politicians of the state and yet, due to the blood ties they have with one another stemming from actual nepotism but also non-familial bonds formed from shared participation in orchestrated violences, they consciously and actively work towards maintaining a violent state. Blood ties for them means being able to share the splattered blood of Latinas among all of their hands. This removal of responsibility for the Latina body keeps it in constant and immediate danger, and, while she can find comfort within her racial and/or ethnic blood ties, if she is of a darker complexion and/or Afro-Latina, opposing groups with racial blood ties of their own have proven to be just as dangerous to her well-being. The strength of the Latina, then, exists despite all of the harmful effects that the focus on blood has produced within the Vampire state and, like blood in a human body, she gains strength from the interconnecting vessels placed within her by these systems that continually pump her blood in and out.

Before this week’s discussion, I had never given further thought to how blood relates to race or religion. I could understand how it related to race or religion on a superficial level, like the mention of the one-drop rule or like in communion when you drink the “blood” of Christ. “…Blood shapes and defines the channels and motions that carry the family, the class, and the race, the nation and the economy too” (Vampire State 89). I understood this quote as Anidjar saying that blood defines almost every aspect of our lives and perhaps society. Within these aspects of life, blood also “testifies to change, novelty, or…repetition” (Good Christian 9). Essentially, blood demonstrates the changes or repetition in familial (blood) ties, race, and the state (to name a few examples).

I felt as though race was one of those aspects that would really help me understand Latinas and Religion because Latinas are of different races. When talking about blood in relation to race, Anidjar writes about “the blood of law and the blood of science” (Vampire State 109). Within race, blood can be legal, and blood can be scientific. When thinking about blood in the legal state, it made me think of slavery and how having African blood made slavery a legal source of capital in the United States For the Latina body, having Indigenous blood or African blood makes subordination legal. Your race, the blood found within your race, allows for all kinds of legal subordination.

When talking about blood in the scientific state, it made me think about how the subordination of people of color and Latinas is made possible because of science. Science has said that women are “weak” allowing for Latinas to be treated as such. When talking about the Latina body and blood, her body is not strong like a man’s body and blood. To my understanding, the female body is not respected because of the blood of law and the blood of science. The Latina body is now respected because of race which produces the blood of law and the blood of science.

I’m hoping all of that made sense. All is to say, within Christianity, blood gave birth to race in the United States, and I want to say Spain too. Within race, blood gives birth to law and entangles itself with science. For Latinas, the blood of law and blood of science undermine the Latina body and the Latina strength. The Latina body does not live up to the expectations of the Christian bodies; the Latina body is not pure.

The way that blood plays an integral, but liminal role in just about every interaction was extremely eye opening. By using blood as an analytical framework, specifically to analyze race, blood shows us how place and space is articulated for non white people in Latin America, and how this is intrinsically linked to religion. For black women, who are charged with a double burden under slavery and (post)colonial racial-sexual power structures. Menstruation, not only signals the emergence of women as ‘public’ – ownable, controllable and usable, for black women under slavery, it implies the creation of more ‘chattle’ or capital and enables the futurity of slave labor. This inherently violent process indicates how blood signals and articulates ownership for black women, not only for themselves, but for their future children as well. Moreover, in a racial and sexual subordinate position, makes black women knowable to owners and to society, and regulates their sexuality, weaponizing it in the process. Rape, and the blood which comes with it, inscribes ownership into a liminal space of sexuality, something both physical and mental, and economic as well.

Blood continues to articulate black women’s lived experiences even beyond slavery. It emphasizes the plurality of women’s experiences, especially in the way it relates to honor. In colonial and post colonial power structures, honor circulates around white Christian ideals of purity and sanctity. This implies that in order to be honorable, black women must forgo their blood and kinship in order to be included in spaces and relationships which are enabled by being seen as honorable in public. Blood articulates experience, and that articulation of experience becomes part of it as well. It made me think back to our first week, and our discussion of feminist foremothers. If blood deliniates kinship, does this blood give us access to our foremothers and do processes that create, ‘dirty’ or ‘purify’ blood bring us closer to them?

This week’s discussion about Blood and Honor allowed me to complicate my ideas about Latinas, purity, sacrifice and how it relates to our religious imagination. Although Anidjar’s analysis and theoretical understanding around the meanings of Blood was difficult for me to grasp at first, our conversation in class helped me go back and really focus on the idea of how imagination affects how we relate to Blood. In Anidjar’s “State (The Vampire State)”, he reckons with the idea of whether the flow of blood is “ultimately affected by the imagination or lack thereof” (8). Our conversations in class about blood as commodity and capital connected with this question of imagination because it made me think about the ways we value/disvalue folks, their bodies, their livelihoods, etc.

Specifically, I was really interested of how blood exists in the Christian imagination and how the shedding of blood is valued as a noble sacrifice. Does this influence how resilience and endurance is understood by Latinas? Because society’s imagination around what is valued and seen as worthy often has to do with the preservation of white patriarchal supremacy and the mutilation/bloodshed of everything otherwise, I’m wondering if those imaginations have influenced the ways Latinas think of sacrifice. Are we given options/choices to be anything but resilient or to endure? How do Christian ritual and practices romanticize/place worth upon ideas of sacrifice? How can this end up in the mutilation of our bodies/our “blood” being shed in order to find faith? How are Latinas finding meaning in these sacrifices or how are they resisting these ideas of sacrifice?

One of the things in the discussion that Professor Carrión mentioned that stood out to me was the question of if love can exist without violence. My initial response was “of course not”, since I am personally a pacifist and generally disturbed by violence. Then she provided the example of Christ’s crucifixion, which I found revealing from a religious perspective since most Christians would describe his death as the ultimate demonstration of love. This week’s material opened my eyes by making me think about blood in relation to the body more often. One support for the idea that violence is necessary for love is how blood is an essential element for the body to continue to live, as violence could be essential to sustain an ongoing love. Andijar addresses how blood exhibits differences between groups, and I think this also applies in a similar fashion in the context of Christianity; one of the foundational elements of Christianity is the notion of serving a loving God who is all-knowing and perfect. And the excessive blood that is present in Christ’s crucifixion demonstrates what I perceive as a contradiction, since I do not see how an immensely violent and painful death sentence is connected to love as an immaculate sacrifice, but could be interpreted as an example of how violence is necessary for love to exist.

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