Bandage, Sort, and Hustle: Ambulance Crews on the Front Lines of Urban Suffering (Paperback)
What is the role of the ambulance in the American city? The prevailing narrative provides a rather simple answer: saving and transporting 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, sociologist Josh Seim reimagines paramedicine as a frontline institution for governing urban suffering. Bandage, Sort, and Hustle argues that the ambulance is part of a fragmented regime that is focused more on neutralizing hardships (which are 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 the 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 clientele. 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.
About the Author
Josh Seim is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Southern California.
"Stunning analysis of the Emergency Medical System (EMS), its frontline workers, and patients . . . . A great source for highlighting how well-intentioned labor processes within seemingly benevolent occupations can further marginalize people and reproduce social inequalities."
— British Medical Journal, Medical Humanities
“By connecting the dots between classic and contemporary theory, the research of others, and his own research, Seim’s work encapsulates the way that knowledge is produced and ideas are grounded in empirical observations. He starts by becoming familiar with the work of others to see what they have learned, and then he explores how his study can further inform their findings to broaden how we understand what he describes as ‘frontline governance of urban suffering’.”
— Everyday Sociology
"A great contribution to urban theory as it yet again underlines the importance of studying organizations and their contexts in order to understand better how urban inequalities are reproduced."
— International Journal of Urban and Regional Research
"Seim’s major contribution . . . is to provide insight into the attitudes of a group of workers who are responsible for managing and regulating the affairs of those who require help during a medical emergency."
— Relations Industrielles/Industrial Relations
"One of the best monographs I have read. Dr. Seim’s writing about his experience made the entire study more interesting to read because of his unique perspective as a sociologist on the front lines as an Emergency Medical Technician."
— New Books Network
"Dismantles the ambulance’s adrenaline-fueled mythology. . . . Seim captures the essence of ambulance work: the plethora of mundane moments interspersed with brief bursts of excitement—excitement that is always tempered by the inevitable paperwork. Undistracted by trying to impress readers with flashy stories of traumatic life or death scenarios, Seim focuses on presenting the conflicts and struggles that ambulance crews face in the course of the day."
— Cleveland Review of Books