Pandemic Politics and The Viral Underclass - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities
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Pandemic Politics and The Viral Underclass

Event to take place 7pm on April 6. Event to be held at 101 Archer in downtown Tulsa.

The Oklahoma Center for the Humanities is pleased to welcome Professor Steven Thrasher for a talk on his newest work, The Viral Underclass: The Human Toll When Inequality and Disease Collide.

Over the course of his career, Professor Thrasher has studied several viruses and the public health issues they pose– namely the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Covid pandemic, and most recently Mpox (formerly known as “Monkeypox”). The Viral Underclass combines these years of study along a common theme: that of a disproportionately impacted “underclass.” Of this, Thrasher writes that “a theory of the viral underclass can serve as a framework for understanding how vulnerability is manufactured for certain kinds of people and how it spreads through society more broadly.”

In the opening section of his book, Thrasher relates his personal experience when the Coronavirus pandemic hit. It was one of uncertainty, but also of calculated risk: “where can I access the best, most affordable healthcare?” The rest of the book follows suit as Thrasher’s research traces the lives of several people within the “viral underclass” to show the human impact of larger systemic issues. Thrasher’s work shows us that exposure, infection, and mortality rates from these viruses follow similar patterns—the same groups over and again are devastated, groups such as LGBTQ communities, black communities and other people of color, the impoverished, the homeless, and the incarcerated. What’s more is that these inequities spill over into care: treatment and accessible healthcare resources are difficult to access or, at times, nonexistent. Thrasher’s work reveals, ultimately, that viruses act as a “magnifier of the divisions already present in our world.”

Join us for what promises to be a fascinating and urgent talk on the nature of viral pandemics/epidemics in our contemporary world, and the ways in which the “viral underclass” is disproportionately impacted.

Steven W. Thrasher is an assistant professor of journalism at Northwestern Medill., and he is the inaugural Daniel H. Renberg Chair of social justice in reporting (with an emphasis on issues relevant to the LGBTQ community). 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 also a frequent guest on NPR, CNN, and Democracy Now. He has also lectured extensively at universities and cultural institutions internationally, including the San Francisco Public Library, the Schomburg Center in Harlem, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the American University of Beirut.