Field research on sex workers in Vietnam won a Vietnamese-American sociologist the “best dissertation” award from the American Sociological Association.
The award went to the UC Berkeley Ph.D. dissertation “New Economies of Sex and Intimacy in Vietnam” by Kimberly Kay Hoang, from UC Berkeley. It is based on 15 months of ethnographic research in Ho Chi Minh City, where Hoang “worked as a bartender and hostess in four bars that catered to different groups of clients,” says the UC press release.
According to UC Berkeley sociology professor Raka Ray, who chaired Hoang’s dissertation committee, her research “highlights not just the structure and practices of sex work in Vietnam, but demonstrates how it serves as a vital form of currency in Vietnam’s political economy.”
Portions of Hoang’s research were previously published in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography (Hoang, Kimberly Kay. ““She’s Not a Low-class Dirty Girl!”: Sex Work in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 40.4 (2011): 367-396. ), and in Sexualities (Hoang, Kimberly Kay. “Economies of Emotion, Familiarity, Fantasy, and Desire: Emotional Labor in Ho Chi Minh City’s Sex Industry.” Sexualities, 13.2 (2010): 255-272. ).
In a message on anthropologist Lee Ngo‘s Facebook, Hoang said her dissertation will be published as a book in 2 years, and that is why the dissertation is not on ProQuest.
Hoang is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Rice University and will join the faculty at Boston College in 2013.
In her research, Hoang interviewed numerous sex workers and their clients in diverse areas of Ho Chi Minh City, from the working class outskirts to the upscale downtown District One.
Her work analyzes the stratas of the sex industry with differetn economic, cultural and bodily resources at each level. Unlike the stereotype that it’s all sex for money, Hoang demonstrates that at different layers of the sex industry, the levels of intimacy and relations differ.
Having read the papers, the Bolsavik is not surprised that Hoang won the award. It’s a mix of intense, in-depth field work, with top-level theoretical analysis.