John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Among the honorees is speculative fiction writer N.K. Jemisin, who has consecutively won the Hugo Awards for every book in her Broken earth trilogy, about the struggle to rebuild a world devastated by exploitation and geological upheavals. “I’m writing the stories that I wish someone had written for me when I was younger,” he said in a short video.
Also on the roster is dancer and choreographer Ralph Lemon, who is working on a piece titled Saturnalia, which will address pain, violence and power structures in today’s culture. And singer and composer Cécile McLorin Salvant, who brings a global black feminist sensibility (and a vocal range of nearly four octaves) to her interpretations of both jazz standards and her original works.
“In the midst of civil unrest, a global pandemic, natural disasters and wildfires, this group of 21 exceptionally creative individuals offers a moment of celebration,” MacArthur Fellows CEO Cecilia Conrad said in a statement. “They are asking critical questions, developing innovative technologies and public policies, enriching our understanding of the human condition and producing works of art that provoke and inspire us.”
In honor of their talent and creativity, each Fellow receives an award of $ 625,000, paid in quarterly installments over five years. On its website, the Foundation describes the award as “unconstrained”; there are no expectations and Fellows can do whatever they want with the money.
Here are this year’s MacArthur Fellows, with links to our coverage where applicable.
(Note: The MacArthur Foundation is among NPR’s financial backers.)
Isaiah Andrews, 34, econometrician
“To develop robust methods of statistical inference to address key challenges in economics and social sciences.”
Tressie McMillan Cottom, 43, sociologist, writer and public scholar
“Shaping discourse on highly topical issues at the confluence of race, gender, education and digital technology for a broad audience.”
Paul Dauenhauer, 39, chemical engineer
“To develop new technologies to convert renewable organic materials into chemicals used in products such as plastics, rubber and detergents.”
Nels Elde, 47, evolutionary geneticist
“Investigating the molecular mechanisms and evolutionary processes that drive host-pathogen interactions”.
Damien Fair, 44, cognitive neuroscientist
“Elaboration of network connectivity maps in individual brains that improve our understanding of how distinct regions communicate and develop in both typical and atypical contexts.”
Larissa FastHorse, 49, playwright
“Creating space for indigenous artists, stories and experiences in traditional theater and countering the misrepresentation of Native American perspectives in the wider society.”
Catherine Coleman Flowers, 62, environmental health advocate
“To draw attention to the failure of water and sanitation infrastructures in rural areas and its role in perpetuating socio-economic and health disparities”.
Mary L. Gray, 51, anthropologist and media scholar
“Investigating the ways in which work, identity and human rights are transformed by the digital economy”.
N. K. Jemisin, 48, writer of speculative fiction
“Pushing against the conventions of epic fantasy and science fiction genres by exploring deeply human issues about structural racism, environmental crises and family relationships.”
Ralph Lemon, 68, artist
“Generating interdisciplinary ways of artistic expression for stories, emotions, memories and identities that traditional media do not satisfy”.
Polina V. Lishko, 46, developmental and cell biologist
“By examining the cellular processes that drive mammalian fertilization and opening new avenues for contraception and infertility treatment.”
Thomas Wilson Mitchell, 55, property law scholar
“Reform the laws and develop policy solutions that address the mechanisms by which black and disadvantaged American families have been deprived of their land, homes and real estate wealth.”
Natalia Molina, 49, American historian
“Revealing how the racial difference narratives that were constructed and applied to immigrant groups a century ago continue to shape national politics today.”
Fred Moten, 58, cultural theorist and poet
“Creating new conceptual spaces to accommodate emerging forms of black aesthetics, cultural production and social life”.
Cristina Rivera Garza, 56, fiction writer
“Exploring culturally constructed notions of language, memory and gender from a transnational perspective.”
Cécile McLorin Salvant, 31, singer and songwriter
“Using multiple powers of interpretation to infuse jazz standards and original compositions with a vibrant global, black, feminist sensibility.”
Monika Schleier-Smith, 37, experimental physics
“To improve our understanding of the behavior of quantum systems with many particles and to link the phenomena observed in the laboratory to a number of other areas of physics.”
Mohammad R. Seyedsayamdost, 41, biological chemist
“To investigate the synthesis of new molecules with therapeutic properties and accelerate the discovery of new antibiotics”.
Forrest Stuart, 38, sociologist
“To challenge longstanding assumptions about the forces that shape urban poverty and violence and bring to light the lived reality of those who experience them.”
Nanfu Wang, 34, documentary director
“Creation of intimate character studies that examine the impact of authoritarian governance, corruption and lack of accountability on the lives of individuals.”
Jacqueline Woodson, 57, writer
“Redefining children’s and young adult literature to understand more complex issues and reflect the lives of black children, adolescents and families.”