Answering the question “what do ambulance workers do?” might seem like a simple task — they are frontline healthcare workers who help save the lives of the critically injured. But this response doesn’t give us the full picture.

Josh Seim, sociologist and author of Bandage, Sort, and Hustle: Ambulance Crews on the Front Lines of Urban Suffering, discovered the truth of the job first-hand during his ethnographic field work as an emergency medical technician (EMT).

Seim joined UC Press Executive Director, Tim Sullivan in this virtual conversation to discuss the role of ambulance crews in governing urban suffering, much like organizations such as welfare offices, nonprofits, police and others. His fieldwork helps us see how the ambulance is another “site” where the state manages populations at the bottom of the polarized metropolis, rather than addressing the root causes of their suffering.

In this video, Seim describes exactly what he means by the term “urban suffering,” the story behind the book’s title, and insights from his experiences as an ambulance worker. He helps us to understand the complicated role of the ambulance in the American city.

Check out Seim’s new book Bandage, Sort, and Hustle, now available wherever books are sold, including indie stores currently offering curbside pickup, and websites like