Dirty Writing

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Culture and Organization, 2008, 14 (3), pp. 241 - 259
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On 16 August 2006 we watched Life of Grime: New York on Australia's Channel 10 television network. The camera followed a group of 'grime professionals' cleaning up the streets of New York. They cleaned rats, dogs and other peoples' dirt. One guy struck us as particularly interesting. His job was cleaning the streets after suicides. His latest assignment was someone who had recently jumped from an apartment block of 17 floors, a woman. He enjoyed scrubbing the railing which caught her flesh as she fell, the blood fresh on the sidewalk. As he hosed down the street with complete detachment from the dirt he was cleaning, the blood just ran, slipping away - life having already slipped away. The debris was fresh and easy to remove. Stale dirt, hardened blood, crusty flesh is harder to brush away and with it better hydraulics are required to sterilize the streets, he told us. Maybe writing is like this. Ignoring the material(ity) of the dirt. Pretending that it didn't come from real people. Forgetting the damaged lives that produce the dirt. Removing the dirt from view. And our dirt is so encrusted, so hard to sanitize despite our massive cleaning efforts.
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