How Fear and Fantasy have Fueled Epidemics from the Black Death to the Avian Flu
By Philip Alcabes
(PublicAffairs, Hardcover, 9781586486181, 336pp.)
Publication Date: April 2009
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Why we invent epidemic threats, create false terrors, and let irrational anxiety take over our lives
Philip Alcabes is an Associate Professor of Urban Public Health at Hunter College of the City University of New York and Visiting Clinical Associate Professor at the Yale School of Nursing. He has written op-eds for the Washington Post and contributed essays to The American Scholar, Chronicle of Higher Education, and Virginia Quarterly Review. He lives in the Bronx, New York.
Helen Epstein, author of Invisible Cure: Why We Are Losing the Fight Against AIDS in Africa
"In this richly detailed and fascinating book, Alcabes explores the meaning of epidemics throughout history, and what our fears of them tell us about ourselves. Like Susan Sontag, he reminds us just how hard it is to see these diseases for what they are."
Barry Glassner, author of The Gospel of Food and The Culture of Fear
“Exceptionally insightful and persuasively argued, Dread is at once a chronicle of the uses and (more often) abuses of the term epidemic and an antidote to the modern tendency to transmute fears of strangers and societal and personal failings into diseases.”
Harriet Washington, author of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present
"Dread is an insightful education in how art and science inform each other in a cultural synergy that, even today, keeps us from discerning what is medicine and what is myth. The word “genius” has been debased by frequent use, but this is a work of undeniable genius in the most exalted sense. What Stephen Jay Gould did for natural history, Philip Alcabes has done for public health."
SEED Magazine, April book pick
“With its analysis of historical and modern epidemics, both real and imagined, Dread convinces that the fear can be worse than the disease.”
Publishers Weekly, STARRED review 3/30
“An engrossing, revealing account of the relationship between progress and plague.”
BBC’s Focus Magazine
“The horrifying notion of epidemic disease is so ingrained that you will be halfway through this intriguing book before you realize just how hysterical we all are.”
“(This) spookily timely book, published just as the swine flu panic kicked in, does a brilliant job of exposing the social factors behind our dread of disease and encouraging healthy scepticism towards claims of ‘epidemics’… Dread is an invaluable – dare I say, infectious – read.”