Philip Alcabes discusses myths of health, disease and risk.

Blog Round-Up: Epidemics

When Powell’s Books asked us to write for their blog, we decided to ask why people believe we’re in an Age of Epidemics.  That was written back in March, though it was only posted today.  How much more we’d have had to say about that belief were we to write now!  Especially given the multifaceted outbreak of swine flu, which even today continues to wend its way — occasionally violently, mostly indolently, but always with maximum attention — through schools (as DemFromCT points out in DailyKos today) and neighborhoods.


At Smallpox2009, Robert posts a note following Abigail Zuger’s review of Dread, which appeared in the NY Times on 26 May.  The post picks up Zuger’s wording as to whether fear of epidemics is “hard-wired” — not the most felicitous term but an apt question to ponder.  More happily, it also picks up her evident fascination with the question of why our society is so intrigued by epidemics.


At, Kristina Chew wonders about the question of whether autism is an epidemic.  She picks up the idea from Dread that once we call something an epidemic we give it “a story line, with a beginning and an end.”


Crawford Killian reviews Dread at The Tyee, homing in on the links between the epidemic narrative and social anxieties — and economic disparities.  “Much of what we consider hygiene is little more than an attempt by the anxious middle class to control the dirty, lawless, sexually profligate poor,” he reminds us.

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This entry was posted on Friday, May 29th, 2009 at 8:20 pm and is filed under Disease, epidemics, Narratives. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.