Microscopic view of red blood cells

Blood Cultures: Medicine, Media, & Militarisms

How blood defined twentieth-century US empire from Alcatraz Island to Guantánamo Bay

Blood Cultures shows how blood saturated the twentieth-century US cultural imaginary, slipped into laws and policies, flowed across screens, and seeped into our most intimate encounters.

Cover of Cathy Hannabach's book Blood Cultures: Medicine, Media, and Miliarisms. Cover is red and white with an abstract pattern

Cathy Hannabach assembles and analyzes a rich archive bridging science studies, popular culture, and anti-racist feminist and queer politics.

Chapters engage blood quantum rules, immigration and asylum law, transnational feminist blood art, epidemiological maps of disease, global health AIDS policies, Cold War vampire films, blood testing and sterilization practices, and activist blood drive campaigns.

Hannabach traces how these gendered, sexualized, and racialized blood practices were violently mobilized in the service of US empire, as well as creatively transformed by feminist, anticolonial, anticapitalist, and queer artists and activists.

Ultimately, Blood Cultures demonstrates why it is not a coincidence that “the American century” is simultaneously known as “the bloodiest century.” Both material and metaphoric, both life and death, blood has defined US empire from Alcatraz Island to Guantánamo Bay. 

Praise for Blood Cultures

“How does blood circulate? Not simply in bodies, but through politics and over maps and across media? These are the questions that are central to Cathy Hannabach’s stunning multi-disciplinary, transnational analysis of the role of blood in giving life to American modernity. This book creates a narrative of the twentieth century, and a means of understanding the nation and its practices, from the American Red Cross to Guantanamo Bay.”

Eric Smoodin, author of Paris in the Dark: Going to the Movies in the City of Light, 1930–1950


“Cathy Hannabach assembles an impressive interdisciplinary archive to explore important questions in twentieth century US political and cultural histories. Analyzing blood as both metaphor and material practice, Hannabach’s inventive, lively, and important book examines the relationship between race, gender/sexuality, and national belonging in popular culture, medicine, and in the military. Essential reading for transnational American Studies, gender and sexuality, and science and technology studies.”

Julie Sze, author of Fantasy Islands: Chinese Dreams and Ecological Fears in an Age of Climate Crisis


“An important work contributing to current blood studies, Blood Cultures not only details how blood can be mobilized to hurt, marginalize and even kill, but more importantly allows readers to consider the configuration of biovalues and bioethics in the context of the US during the last two centuries.”

Poyao Huang, queer and feminist science and technologies studies scholar

Table of contents

Introduction: Blood Cultures

Bleeding Identities: The Racial and Sexual Politics of Blood Drive Activism

Cartographies of Blood and Violence

Technologies of Blood: The Biopolitics of Asylum

Blood and the Bomb: Atomic Cities, Nuclear Kinship, and Queer Vampires

Conclusion: Sanguinary Futures