Tine M. GammeltoftHaunting Images: A Cultural Account of Selective Reproduction in Vietnam

University of California Press, 2014

by Carla Nappi on July 22, 2014

Tine M. Gammeltoft

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[Cross-posted from New Books in East Asian StudiesTine Gammeltoft’s new book explores the process of reproductive decision making in contemporary Hanoi. Haunting Images: A Cultural Account of Selective Reproduction in Vietnam (University of California Press, 2014) develops an anthropology of belonging, paying special attention to the ways that women and their communities understand and make decisions based on ultrasound imaging technologies. In the course of making life-and-death decisions, the subjects of Gammeltoft’s book confronted ethically demanding circumstances through which they forged moral selves. Inspired by the work of Emmanuel Levinas, Haunting Images considers their reproductive choices as acts of collective belonging, producing the subjectivities of both mother and fetus. The book considers these choices in light of the extended repercussions of Agent Orange in Vietnam, the local specificity of biopower, national concepts of “population quality,” and the precarity of individual attachments to social collectives. The second half of the book follows the experiences of women who were informed via 3D ultrasound scans that the children they expected would be anomalous, tracing their choices, questions, contexts, and encounters with childhood disability.  It is a powerful and deeply affecting study

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Kevin SchilbrackPhilosophy and the Study of Religions: A Manifesto

July 18, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Religion] Very often evaluative questions about cultural phenomena are avoided for more descriptive or explanatory goals when approaching religions. Traditionally, this set of concerns has been left to philosophers of religion. In Philosophy and the Study of Religions: A Manifesto (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014), Kevin Schilbrack, professor of Religious Studies at Appalachian State University, argues that [...]

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John H. McWhorterThe Language Hoax: Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language

July 18, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Linguistics] The idea that the language we speak influences the way we think – sometimes referred to as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis – has had an interesting history. It’s particularly associated with the idea that languages dismissed as primitive by 19th century thinkers, such as those of indigenous peoples in America and [...]

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Benjamin LiebermanRemaking Identities: God, Nation and Race in World History

June 28, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Genocide Studies] What do you say to someone who suggests that genocide is not just destructive, but constructive? This is the basic theme of Benjamin Lieberman‘s excellent new book Remaking Identities:  God, Nation and Race in World History (Rowman and Littlefield, 2013). The book surveys two thousand years of history to explain how people have [...]

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William Arnal and Russell T. McCutcheonThe Sacred is the Profane: The Political Nature of “Religion”

June 28, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Religion] What brings us together as scholars in Religious Studies? Are the various social phenomena commonly grouped together as religion really that similar? The Sacred Is the Profane: The Political Nature of “Religion” (Oxford University Press, 2012) adds to this ongoing debate over whether ‘religion’ is a useful explanatory term. In general, issues of [...]

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Morris B. HoffmanThe Punisher’s Brain: The Evolution of Judge and Jury

June 11, 2014

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Cymene HoweIntimate Activism: The Struggle for Sexual Rights in Postrevolutionary Nicaragua

June 10, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Gender Studies] With Intimate Activism: The Struggle for Sexual Rights in Postrevolutionary Nicaragua (Duke University Press, 2013), Cymene Howe offers an ethnography of activism. Woven into Nicaragua’s political history of revolution and U.S. intervention, the struggle for sexual rights there takes place on three stages: in intimate settings of lesbian discussion groups, in the public [...]

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Isaac WeinerReligion Out Loud: Religious Sound, Public Space, and American Pluralism

June 8, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Religion] In 2004, the traditionally Polish-Catholic community of Hamtramck Michigan became the site of a debate over the Muslim call to prayer.  Members of the Hamtramck community engaged in a contest about the appropriateness of sound and its intrusion into public space. In Religion Out Loud: Religious Sound, Public Space, and American Pluralism (NYU [...]

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Anne AllisonPrecarious Japan

May 23, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in East Asian Studies]  “[All] I want to eat is a rice ball.” This was the last entry in the diary of a 52-year-old man who starved to death in an apartment he had occupied for 20 years. His is just one of many voices of the precarity of everyday life and [...]

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Denise BrennanLife Interrupted: Trafficking into Forced Labor in the United States

May 20, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Gender Studies] Denise Brennan‘s second book, Life Interrupted: Trafficking into Forced Labor in the United States (Duke University Press, 2014), examines how individuals who were trafficked into forced labor go about rebuilding their lives afterward. Through her ethnography of lived experience and her analysis of immigration policy, Brennan shows that trafficking and forced labor [...]

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