© 2022 KALW 91.7 FM Bay Area
KALW Public Media / 91.7 FM Bay Area
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

In ‘The Viral Underclass,’ Steven Thrasher explores how systemic oppression puts marginalized people at greater risk of disease


On this edition of Your Call, we have a conversation with professor Steven Thrasher about his new book, The Viral Underclass: The Human Toll When Inequality And Disease Collide.

Thasher explores the unequal effects of viral pandemics and the ways in which capitalist power structures exploit and create a viral underclass. He tells the stories of human beings whose lives and bodies are subject to a manufactured vulnerability sustained by capitalism, racism and stigma.

He writes, "when we follow the virus—any virus, really—we follow the fault lines of our culture. Like all pathogens, the novel coronavirus was not a “great equalizer,” as some initially called it, but a magnifier of the divisions already present in our world. Similarly, viruses show us where the cracks in our society are; they offer a stark revelation of inequality. In times of mass crisis, those cracks get wider and more people fall into them."


Dr. Steven Thrasher, Daniel H. Renberg chair of social justice in reporting, assistant professor of journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, and author of The Viral Underclass: The Human Toll When Inequality And Disease Collide

Web Resources:

The Nation: Steven Thrasher on The Viral Underclass

Jezebel: Our Public Health System Created a 'Viral Underclass'

Them: Read Me: The Viral Underclass Explores the Relationship Between Inequality and Illness

Boston Globe: The virus of inequality in ‘The Viral Underclass’

LitHub: In the Age of Covid and Monkeypox, Should We Be Prioritizing the Health of the “Viral Underclass”?

Bee Soll is a producer with Your Call at KALW, and a producer, writer, and editor at KCBS Radio in San Francisco. She is a former reporter for Crosscurrents and contributor at KPFA Radio.