Steven Thrasher at Harvard Book Store


The Viral Underclass:
The Human Toll When Inequality
and Disease Collide

in conversation with VICTOR RAY


October 26, 2022
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes STEVEN THRASHER—inaugural Daniel H. Renberg Chair of social justice in reporting and an assistant professor of journalism at Northwestern University—for a discussion of his new book The Viral Underclass: The Human Toll When Inequality and Disease Collide. He will be joined in conversation by VICTOR RAY—Award-winning sociologist and author of On Critical Race Theory: Why it Matters & Why You Should Care.

A Return to In-Person Events

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About The Viral Underclass

Having spent a ground-breaking career studying the racialization, policing, and criminalization of HIV, Dr. Thrasher has come to understand a deeper truth at the heart of our society: that there are vast inequalities in who is able to survive viruses and that the ways in which viruses spread, kill, and take their toll are much more dependent on social structures than they are on biology alone.

Told through the heart-rending stories of friends, activists, and teachers navigating the novel coronavirus, HIV, and other viruses, Dr. Thrasher brings the reader with him as he delves into the viral underclass and lays bare its inner workings. In the tradition of Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste and Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, The Viral Underclass helps us understand the world more deeply by showing the fraught relationship between privilege and survival.

Praise for The Viral Underclass

"Steven Thrasher has written the book we urgently need. Putting a compelling and human face on the millions of people affected by the course viruses like HIV and Covid take in the human population, he shows us how race, class, gender, and sexuality combine to help some survive pandemics and even profit from them, while others experience pandemic through their bodies in the form of illness, death, death of loved ones, shame, stigma, and financial insecurity. His analysis of the viral underclass should be required reading for everyone concerned with transforming unequal access to health care in a world where pandemic heightens the brutality of inequality." ―Michael Eric Dyson, New York Times bestselling author of Tears We Cannot Stop and What Truth Sounds Like

"At once precise and sweeping, rigorous and inviting, The Viral Underclass fearlessly crosses the policed borders of academic disciplines and literary forms, creating an irresistibly readable and humane exploration of the barbarities of class. Through the sheer force of his story telling, Thrasher challenges us to abandon our fatal illusions of separateness in favor of an embrace of our place in a collective entanglement of bodies. Readers are gifted that most precious of things in these muddled times: a clear lens through which to see the world." ―Naomi Klein, New York Times bestselling author of This Changes Everything and The Shock Doctrine

"I fully expected to encounter rigorous research and a full accounting of the relevant history in Dr. Steven W. Thrasher's The Viral Underclass: The Human Toll When Inequality and Disease Collide. But what excited me and kept me rapt the entire time was the astonishing level of craft and depth of compassion with which the book was written. More than just sets of facts, Dr. Thrasher illuminates truths, all of which implore us to live by the grandest, most liberating of all principles: love. The Viral Underclass is journalism and journey, science and sermon, astute articulation of grievance and pathway to healing. It is vital reading." ―Robert Jones, Jr., New York Times bestselling author of The Prophets

Steven W. Thrasher
Steven W. Thrasher

Steven W. Thrasher

Steven W. Thrasher is the inaugural Daniel H. Renberg Chair of social justice in reporting and an assistant professor of journalism at Northwestern University. Thrasher has worked as writer-at-large at the Guardian, staff writer at the Village Voice, and facilitator for the NPR StoryCorps project. His articles are regularly published in the New York Times, BuzzFeed News, Esquire, the Nation, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Daily Beast. He’s also a former researcher for Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update.” Thrasher is a frequent guest on NPR, CNN, and Democracy Now.

Photo Credit: C.S. Muncy

Victor Ray
Victor Ray

Victor Ray

Victor Ray is the F. Wendell Miller Associate Professor in the Departments of Sociology and Criminology and African American Studies at the University of Iowa, a Nonresident Fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution, and a Carr Center Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. His research applies critical race theory to classic sociological questions. His work has been published in multiple journals and other publications and has won multiple awards. Victor is also an active public scholar, publishing commentary in outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Harvard Business Review, and Boston Review. His first book On Critical Race Theory: Why it Matters & Why You Should Care is was recently published by Random House.

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1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

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