Concrete and Dust: Mapping the Sexual Terrains of Los Angeles
Routledge – 2013 – 256 pages
Series: Innovative Ethnographies
Concrete and Dust focuses on the performative nature of sexualized identity in Hollywood, the people that live in its underbelly and surrounding valleys, the sexual geographies of the place, and the ways in which sexual agency is mapped on the body and in consciousness. The cultural turn in ethnography has expanded the scope of ethnographic research methods, which now include innovative techniques that recognize and value sensuous scholarship (ethnographic works that incorporate visual, aural, and sensory texts). Hollywood has often been a focus in critical cultural theory; absent from the field is a holistic methodological perspective that collages visual image, arts-based ethnographic and autoethnographic narratives, experimental sound, poetry, and performative writing, in order to juxtapose the conflicting and complex performative nature of Hollywood, celebrity, glamour, and sexual agency.
Concrete and Dust is a haunting excavation of identity, geography, and sexuality told in multiple literary genres and artistic media. The scholarly insights are deep, the artwork profound, and the cautionary tales—for women, ecology, and relationships—are frighteningly rich. This is a work that deserves to be carefully read, studied, and emulated for its artistry and critical acumen. Minge and Zimmerman have set a new bar for performance and ethnography, and it’s very, very high.
- Elizabeth Bell, Women's and Gender Studies, University of South Florida
In Concrete and Dust, feeling and vulnerability, courage and agency intersect and ooze from every page. This innovative arts-based autoethnography of place blends performative writing of personal stories, poetry, art, and theory, to fully engage readers in sights, sounds, tastes, bodies, identities, relationships, and spaces where sensuality is performed, negotiated, inhibited, and revealed. This exemplar is sure to inspire students in my graduate autoethnography classes to consider heretofore unimagined possibilities of evocative and sensuous autoethnographic scholarship.
- Carolyn Ellis, Communication, University of South Florida
Minge and Zimmerman offer an truly engaging autoethnographic journey, one that takes the reader through the communities of Burbank, Chatsworth, Hollywood Hills, West Hollywood, and Topanga in Los Angeles to show how the body navigates place, how place can toss the body here and there until it might feel some comfort, some sense of respect, love, and openness. Their compelling account is a display of "sensuous consciousness," an intimate and insightful rendering of a personal struggle in the concrete and dust. This is a journey no reader will regret taking.
- Ronald Pelias, Speech Communication, Southern Illinois University
Concrete and Dust is a provocative and multi-sensory autoethnographic portrait of desire, the sexualized body, memory, power, and place. Using performative writing, soundscapes, collage, mapping, and photographs, Minge and Zimmerman show us the power of living inquiry. They write honestly, viscerally, and sensuously over and on sexual terrains and narrate a search for self, for ease and belonging in our bodies, and for the embrace of home and community.
- Stacy Holman Jones, Communication Studies, California State University, Northridge
Jeanine M. Mingé is Assistant Professor and Director of Performance Ensemble in the Department of Communication Studies at California State University, Northridge.
Amber Lynn Zimmerman is Assistant Professor in the Department of Drama and Speech Communication at the University of Waterloo.