by Tine Gammeltoft
(University of California Press, 2014)
Committee chair Daniel Goldstein (Rutgers U) and committee members Susan Greenhalgh (Harvard U) and Janice Newberry (U Lethbridge) write:
"The 2014 AES Senior Book Prize is awarded to Tine M. Gammeltoft (U Copenhagen) for her book Haunting Images: A Cultural Account of Selective Reproduction in Vietnam (2014, University of California Press). A beautifully written and extraordinarily powerful ethnography, Haunting Images is based on over ten years of fieldwork in Vietnam. It introduces readers to the use of sonography as a selective technology of prenatal diagnosis in a context marked by the realities of Vietnamese socialism; a heterogeneous cosmology that includes Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism; the ongoing effects of Agent Orange use during the 'American War;' and the hard choices that characterize daily life in a resource-poor context.
While dealing with very contemporary issues, the book offers a fresh take on such longstanding anthropological concerns as personhood and belonging. It is an ethnography that asks big, difficult questions – e.g., what constitutes a human being? – and provides fascinating, sometimes troubling answers. Gammeltoft makes Vietnam global and makes all of us, whatever our nationality or area of research, care about the women and families about whom she writes. As the book’s nominator, Rayna Rapp, put it, 'Haunting Images makes for haunting reading.' We are pleased to award it the 2014 AES Senior Book Prize."