Meet the MacArthur ‘geniuses’ who are some of the most fascinating of 2019

The recipients each get $625,000, paid over five years, to spend on whatever they wish.

Meet the MacArthur ‘geniuses’ who are some of the most fascinating of 2019
(Left to right) Saidiya Hartman, Emmanuel Pratt, Kelly Lytle Hernández, and Jenny Tung. [Photos: courtesy of John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation]

Every year, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation gives out a set of no-strings-attached, $625,000 fellowships to people working in fields from art to science to legal research. This year’s set of 26 recipients of what’s often called the “genius grant” are all doing fascinating work.


(Left to right) Elizabeth Anderson, Lynda Barry, Danielle Citron, and Annie Dorsen.
[Photos: courtesy of John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation]
Here’s a sample of just a few of the most interesting recipients:

  • Elizabeth Anderson, a philosophy professor at the University of Michigan, studies freedom and equality in the real world, including racial segregation and the tyrannies of the workplace. She was the subject of an extensive profile in the New Yorker earlier this year.
  • Cartoonist Lynda Barry, who is known for the long-syndicated comic strip Ernie Pook’s Comeek and book-length works such as One! Hundred! Demons! Barry also teaches at the University of Wisconsin and leads and designs workshops and materials for teaching writing, drawing, and creativity.
  • Boston University law professor Danielle Citron, who is known for her studies of online harassment and nonconsensual porn. She’s advised legislators on making laws against revenge porn and serves on Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council and Facebook’s Nonconsensual Intimate Imagery Task Force.
  • Annie Dorsen, a theater artist known for her work on algorithmically scripted performances. That includes a recent piece called Infinite Sun, featuring a chorus of laptops generating “a new, invented spiritual song, working from a corpus made of existing mantras from a wide variety of spiritual traditions,” and Yesterday Tomorrow, where a human-performed tune gradually transitions along a machine-generated path from The Beatles’ “Yesterday” to “Tomorrow,” from the musical Annie.
  • Columbia University professor Saidiya Hartman, who has explored the history of slavery and its aftermath. Her works include Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America and the combination memoir and work of history Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route.
  • Urban designer Emmanuel Pratt, known for his work rebuilding disadvantaged areas in Chicago. He is the cofounder and executive director of the Sweet Water Foundation and has worked on projects incorporating agriculture and community spaces in formerly neglected spaces.
  • Historian Kelly Lytle Hernández, a UCLA history professor who studies mass incarceration and its links to white supremacy. Her book-length works include Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol and City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771–1965.
  • Duke University biology professor Jenny Tung, who studies how social and environmental stress can impact health. Her research with Kenyan baboons and rhesus monkeys found that lower status can impact responses to health issues on a cellular and genetic level.

You can check out the full list here.

About the author

Steven Melendez is an independent journalist living in New Orleans.