Viral Underclass: The Human Toll When Inequality and Disease Collide

From preeminent LGBTQ scholar and journalist Steven Thrasher comes The Viral Underclass, an exploration of one of the most pressing issues of our times: the relationship between viruses and inequality.

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SKU: 9781250796639 Categories: , ,


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In March 2020, the COVID pandemic plunged the world into fear and chaos. People around the globe locked themselves in their houses and stocked up on food, fearing unemployment, the loss of loved ones, and an uncertain future. But as the weeks went on, one devastating truth began to emerge more prominently than any other: we were not all impacted by this virus the same way. While wealthier people could keep themselves safe by working from home and using food delivery, the marginalized members of society were left much more vulnerable. They held risky jobs as “Essential Workers,”; they did not have health insurance; they lost employment and the ability to afford housing and food; they were old and viewed as disposable; they were undocumented and afraid to go to the hospital; they were at far greater risk because of living with a disability. It quickly became startlingly clear the vast inequalities in who was able to survive the virus.

And yet for prominent scholar Steven Thrasher, none of this was a surprise. Having spent his ground-breaking career studying the racialization, policing, and criminalization of HIV, Dr. Thrasher had seen first hand how viruses intersect with racism, capitalism, homophobia, and ableism. He knew that the ways in which viruses spread, kill, and take their toll are much more dependent on social structures than they are on biology. And he had a term for it: the viral underclass.

In THE VIRAL UNDERCLASS, Dr. Thrasher will present, for the first time, his unified theory of one of the most pressing social justice issues of our time: how viruses expose the fault lines of society. Told through the heart-rending stories of friends, activists, and teachers navigating COVID, HIV, and other viruses, Dr. Thrasher brings the reader with him as he develops his theory and lays bare its inner workings–all in an engaging, accessible, and personable voice. In the tradition of Isabel Wilkerson’s CASTE, Michelle Alexander’s THE NEW JIM CROW, and Naomi Klein’s THE SHOCK DOCTRINE, THE VIRAL UNDERCLASS helps us understand the world more deeply by showing the fraught relationship between privilege and survival.

Additional information

Weight1.2 lbs
Dimensions9.6 × 6.5 × 1.3 in
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Year Published


Date Published

August 2, 2022


Celadon Books


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