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Here Are This Year's 'Geniuses'

Presenting the 26 winners of the MacArthur fellowships
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 25, 2019 3:31 PM CDT

(Newser) – There are 26 "geniuses" this year, as in winners of the prestigious MacArthur fellowships, perhaps better known as "genius" grants. (The New York Times notes the nickname "annoys" the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which has been bestowing the fellowships since 1981.) Each 2019 fellow gets a $625,000 stipend; they are known in fields from art to classical literature to restorative justice. "The idea is simple," as NPR explains. "Unlike, say, a professional athlete or tech entrepreneur, excellence in a field such as philosophy or geophysics doesn't exactly pay big bucks. But achievements in any field often require money anyway, whether that may be for materials or simply the free time and ease of mind that come with financial stability." This year's winners were announced Wednesday:

  • Elizabeth Anderson, 59, a philosopher who examines "the ways that various institutions, policies, and social practices serve to promote or hinder conditions of democratic equality."
  • Sujatha Baliga, 48, an attorney and restorative justice practitioner who works to "interrupt the criminalization of people of color and break cycles of recidivism and violence."
  • Lynda Barry, 63, a graphic novelist, cartoonist, and educator who creates her own works and also teaches "the role of image making in communication."

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  • Mel Chin, 67, an artist working to "raise awareness of social concerns through a practice that defies categorization."
  • Danielle Citron, 50, a legal scholar "addressing the scourge of cyber harassment."
  • Lisa Daugaard, 53, a criminal justice reformer "developing alternative approaches to policing and law enforcement practices to improve outcomes for those struggling with substance use disorder and mental illness."
  • Annie Dorsen, 45, a theater artist particularly interested in looking at how "nonhuman intelligence is profoundly changing the nature of work, culture, and social relationships."
  • Andrea Dutton, 46, a geochemist and paleoclimatologist working to increase understanding of "sea level dynamics."
  • Jeffrey Gibson, 47, a visual artist working to prompt "a shift in how Native American art is perceived and historicized."
  • Mary Halvorson, 38, a guitarist and composer "experimenting at the intersection of jazz and rock."
  • Saidiya Hartman, 58, a literary scholar and cultural historian "tracing the afterlife of slavery in modern American life and rescuing from oblivion stories of sparsely documented lives that have been systematically excluded from historical archives."
  • Walter Hood, 61, a landscape and public artist "creating ecologically sustainable urban spaces."
  • Stacy Jupiter, 43, a marine scientist designing conservation strategies that integrate "local cultural practices with field research."
  • Zachary Lippman, 41, a plant biologist "developing tools for breeding hardier, higher-yielding crops."
  • Valeria Luiselli, 36, a writer "challenging conventional notions of authorship in fiction, essays, and inventive hybrids of the two that pose profound questions about the various ways we piece together stories and document the lives of others."
  • Kelly Lytle Hernández, 45, a historian "challenging long-held beliefs about the origins, ideology, and evolution of incarceration and immigrant detention practices in the United States."
  • Sarah Michelson, 55, a choreographer using dance to "extend and subvert classical, modern, and postmodern traditions and make evident the physical realities of dancers' performance."
  • Jeffrey Alan Miller, 35, a literary scholar researching "how the writing practices of Renaissance scholars shaped foundational texts of modern Christianity, philosophy, and literature."
  • Jerry X. Mitrovica, 58, a theoretical geophysicist working "to better predict the geometry and sources of sea level change in the modern world and the geological past."
  • Emmanuel Pratt, 42, an urban designer "turning neglected urban neighborhoods into places of growth and vitality."
  • Cameron Rowland, 30, an artist "using physical objects and contractual relations—such as items seized in civil forfeiture or furniture made by prison labor—to make visible the mechanisms through which systemic racism is perpetuated."
  • Vanessa Ruta, 45, a neuroscientist "investigating how stimuli in the physical world shape the function of neural circuits and are translated into innate and learned behaviors."
  • Joshua Tenenbaum, 47, a cognitive scientist "exploring how to bring artificial intelligence closer to the capabilities of human thinking."
  • Jenny Tung, 37, an evolutionary anthropologist and geneticist "revealing links between social environmental factors ... and genomic variation and how these connections impact health, well-being, and longevity."
  • Ocean Vuong, 30, a poet and fiction writer exploring "the effects of intergenerational trauma, the refugee experience, and the complexities of identity and desire with eloquence and clarity."
  • Emily Wilson, 47, a classicist and translator "bringing classical literature to new audiences in works that convey ancient texts' relevance to our time."
The Times has more on some of the fellows, including their reactions to hearing the news that they'd won. (Read more MacArthur Foundation stories.)

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