Sonography and Sociality: Obstetrical Ultrasound Imaging in Urban Vietnam

Abstract

This article is about new reproductive technologies, maternal anxieties, and existential uncertainties. It explores the question of why pregnant women in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, have become avid consumers of obstetrical ultrasound scanning even while expressing profound doubts regarding the reliability and safety of this new technology of pregnancy. Through a phenomenological analysis of the social production of women’s sense of reproductive risks and uncertainties, the article shows how Hanoian women’s paradoxical stances toward ultrasound imaging can be explained through a consideration of embodied and historically generated experiences within everyday local worlds. The article argues that the “scientific stories” of fetal well-being and normality that are produced through ultrasonography are challenged by vivid and continual exchanges in everyday lives of stories of the inherent uncertainties of existence in general and of human reproduction in particular.