Berkeley Ph.D. wins top sociology prize for dissertation on sex work in Vietnam

Kimberly Hoang, who earned her sociology Ph.D. at UC Berkeley in 2011, has won the American Sociological Association’s “best dissertation” award for her doctoral dissertation on sex work in Vietnam.

Kimberly Hoang

Kimberly Hoang

The winning entry, New Economies of Sex and Intimacy in Vietnam, was 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. According to Berkeley sociology professor Raka Ray, who chaired her dissertation committee, Hoang’s 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.”

In her nominating letter, Ray called the dissertation “a stunning piece of work” by “an absolutely fearless and creative thinker,” adding that Hoang had done “the sort of fieldwork few others dare.”

Hoang, the daughter of immigrant parents who ran an inner-city pool room, graduated summa cum laude from UC Santa Barbara in 2005 and earned her master’s from Stanford before coming to Berkeley. Now a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality at Rice University, she will join the sociology faculty of Boston College in 2013.

Hoang’s award will be presented in August at the ASA’s annual meeting in Denver.