Latest Update: Explore our Holocaust Memorial Day lectures past and present. Browse our resources, search our podcasts, see what's on.


Blood Fractions: the Octoroon and Other Fantasies

Event Date & Time: 26th November, 2015 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Location: Jewish Museum London, Raymond Burton House, 129-131 Albert Street, London NW1 7NB
Speakers: Professor Roger Luckhurst, Birkbeck, University of London
Theme: National Socialism/ Nazism
Region / Country: Europe, Germany, UK
Historical Period: 18th century, 19th century, 20th century


In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the slave trade, colonial administration and racial science developed a whole structure and language for calculating the precise mixture of blood in the offspring of white Europeans and their subject populations. The official line was that mixing was impossible, but the improvised language of ‘half-bloods’, ‘quadroons’, ‘octoroons’, and other terms suggested otherwise. This was the vast mixed population that existed ‘beyond the pale.’ In Victorian culture, the octoroon (a person with one-eighth black blood) was a kind of vanishing point, a focus of anxiety about detecting the taint of ‘bad’ blood. While in the twentieth century, the Nazis sought to protect ‘pure’ German blood from becoming tainted by the blood of Jews. In this talk Professor Luckhurst explores literary and cultural representations of mixed bloods.

Roger Luckhurst is Professor of Modern and Contemporary Literature at Birkbeck, University of London. He is a recognized expert on nineteenth century literature, pseudo-scientific thought, the Gothic and science fiction; and contributes to arts programmes on BBC Radio Three and Four.

This lecture is one of a series being held alongside the Blood exhibition at the Jewish Museum London (5 November 2015 – 28 February 2016), which was conceived in collaboration with the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism.

View the presentation that accompanied the talk


Play: Roger Luckhurst, Birkbeck, University of London - Blood Fractions: the Octoroon and Other Fantasies
Professor David Feldman, Director – 1

The relationship between antisemitism and other forms of racism and exclusion is not only a historical question. It is an urgent issue for today.

Professor David Feldman, Director

Share Article