Prenatal Diagnosis in Postwar Vietnam: Power, Subjectivity, and Citizenship



Across the world, routine pregnancy care is expanding to include ultrasound imaging and other prenatal diagnostic technologies. Yet, despite their global proliferation, hardly any anthropological research has examined how such technologies are employed outside Euro-America. In this article, I investigate how pregnant women in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, handle the hard choices that ultrasonographies confront them with when a fetal anomaly is detected and a decision must be made to either maintain or terminate the pregnancy. Whereas research conducted in North America, in consonance with the emphasis on individualism in advanced liberal societies, frames prenatal diagnosis in terms of individual “moral pioneering,” I show how Vietnamese women turn the choices they have to make into issues of collectivity, kinship, social belonging, and shared responsibility. The general argument advanced is that a comprehensive understanding of individual reproductive actions and intentions necessarily involves close consideration of local configurations of power, subjectivity, and citizenship.