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Brown Bag Talk: Josh Seim, University of Southern California, Dornsife


Fri, 10/04/2019 - 12:00 to 13:15
Room 415

Talk Title: "Bandage, Sort, and Hustle: Ambulance Crews on the Front Lines of Urban Suffering"

Abstract: What is the role of the 911 ambulance in the American city? The prevailing narrative provides a rather simple answer: to save and transport the critically ill and injured. This is not an incorrect description, but it is incomplete. Drawing on field observations, medical records, and his own experience as a novice emergency medical technician, Josh Seim reimagines paramedicine as a frontline institution for governing urban suffering. Bandage, Sort, and Hustle (forthcoming 2020 with University of California Press) argues the ambulance is part of a fragmented regime that is focused more on neutralizing hardships disproportionately carried by poor people and people of color than on eradicating the root causes of agony. Whether by compressing lifeless chests on the streets or by transporting the publicly intoxicated into the hospital, ambulance crews tend to handle suffering bodies near bottom of the polarized metropolis. Seim illustrates how this work puts crews in recurrent, and sometimes tense, contact with the emergency department nurses and police officers who share their subjects. These street-level relations, however, cannot be understood without considering the bureaucratic and capitalistic forces that control and coordinate ambulance labor from above. Beyond the ambulance, this book motivates a labor-centric model for understanding the frontline governance of down-and-out populations.

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