Monday, September 19, 2011

2011 MacArthur Fellows Announced

Historian Tiya Miles
Tonight the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation announced its 2011 MacArthur Fellows, popularly known as recipients of "Genius" grants. Congratulations to all of them! As always, the new fellows comprise a mixed group of artists, scientists, activists, and people doing work that doesn't easily fall in any categories.  I am familiar with the work of several: Roland Fryer, a 43-year-old professor of economics at Harvard University, who studies the relationship between discrimination, social inequalities and educational attainment using economic experiments; Kay Ryan, the former US Poet Laureate and winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in poetry; and Jad Abumrad, co-host of RadioLab, a radio show and podcast series that explores science and technology-related topics; and poet and translator A. E. Stallings, whose translation of Lucretius's De Rerum Naturum in 2007 received quite a bit of acclaim.  It's an amazing group, no doubt.

Computer scientist
Schwetak Patel

Several of the more unusual winners this year include metalsmith Ubaldo Vitali, who uses old and contemporary techniques to restore ancient and classical artifacts and to create new works of art, and "long-form" journast Peter Hessler, 42, whose work, as the MacArthur Foundation describes it, "whose three books and numerous magazine articles explore the complexities of life in Reform Era China as it undergoes one of the fastest social transformations in history." Especially timely, it strikes me, is the work of Kevin Guskiewicz, the Kenan Distinguished Professor in the Department of Exercise & Science at the University of North Carolina, who looks at the causes and effects of brain injuries incurred during sports; and historian and University of Michigan professor of Tiya Miles's studies on the complex interrelationships between African and Cherokee peoples during the Colonial Era, especially now that the Cherokee have decided to expel the descendants of slaves from their communities.

The list of all the fellows is available here. Congratulations again to all of them, and here're 2 videos of 2011 winner, musician Dafnis Prieto doing what led to his being honored.

Dafnis Prieto Proverb Trio (his solo is off the charts)
Dafnis Prieto at Modern Drummer Fest 2008 (with commentary by him)

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