Bubonic Plague. Aids. Swine Flu. For most of human history we have lived in fear of lurking epidemics. Today, deaths from epidemic disease are rare in the developed world. Yet alarmist headlines, government-issued warnings, and public health announcements maintain the illusion that the next big outbreak is just around the corner.
In Dread, Philip Alcabes examines epidemics through history to show how they reflect the particular social and cultural anxieties of their times. From Typhoid Mary to bioterrorism, as new outbreaks are unleashed or imagined, diseases can become convenient explanations for deep-seated societal anxieties. Epidemic alarm bells can be used to disguise moral crusades, racist propaganda, or political agendas. To regain our senses, argues Alcabes, we must reexamine our choice of enemies and meet future scares with a more critical eye.
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Table of Contents
Introduction: The Origins of Dread 1
Chapter 1 The Sense of an Epidemic 7
Chapter 2 Plague: Birth of the Model Epidemic 21
Chapter 3 Cholera, Poverty, and the Politicized Epidemic 53
Chapter 4 Germs, Science, and the Stranger 83
Chapter 5 The Conquest of Contagion 119
Chapter 6 Postmodern Epidemics 143
Chapter 7 Managing the Imagined Epidemic 181
Epilogue: The Risk-Free Life 215
Selected Bibliography 289