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Fred Moten, Larissa FastHorse, and Ralph Lemon Among 2020 MacArthur “Genius” Fellows

Author NK Jemisin and documentarian Nanfu Wang were also among the awardees of the $625,000 prize from the MacArthur Foundation.

Larissa FastHorse (courtesy the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

Artist Ralph Lemon, playwright Larissa FastHorse, and poet and cultural theorist Fred Moten are among the newly announced class of 2020 MacArthur fellows. The annual award bestowed by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, colloquially known as the “Genius” grant, distributes a $625,000 unrestricted prize over the course of five years to experts in their respective fields.

“In the midst of civil unrest, a global pandemic, natural disasters, and conflagrations, this group of 21 exceptionally creative individuals offers a moment for celebration,” said Cecilia Conrad, managing director of the MacArthur Fellows. “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.”

Among this year’s cohort of 21 awardees are specialists in cognitive neuroscience, visual and performing arts, literature, and more. Many of the 2020 awardees specialize in the confluence of critical race theory and their creative practices.

Ralph Lemon (courtesy the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

Larissa FastHorse, known for her satirical work The Thanksgiving Play, is co-founder of Indigenous Direction, a consulting firm established to transform film and theatre’s relationship to Indigeneity. Ralph Lemon, a New York-based interdisciplinary artist, combines movement, installation, and more in his work.

Awardee Nanfu Wang is a documentarian best known for her film One Child Nation, which illuminates the decades-long policy regarding child-bearing in China. Also among this year’s cohort is Fred Moten, a renowned cultural theorist, poet, and professor in the department of performance studies at New York University. Among his best-known works is the three-volume text consent not to be a single being.

Additional grantees include writers Jacqueline Woodson, author of the young adult fiction novel Brown Girl Dreaming, and Cristina Rivera Garza, author of The Taiga Syndrome. Sociologist and public scholar Tressie McMillan Cottom, the author of Thick: And Other Essays, and speculative fiction writer NK Jemisin, who became the first African-American person to win a prestigious Hugo Award for best novel with her series The Broken Earth Trilogy, were also recognized.

Every year, potential grantees are chosen from a pool suggested by a larger cohort of unidentified nominators nationwide, with the final fellows selected by an anonymous committee.

See the full list of the 2020 MacArthur “Genius” fellows below:

  • Isaiah Andrews (Econometrician)
  • Tressie McMillan Cottom (Sociologist, Writer, and Public Scholar)
  • Paul Dauenhauer (Chemical Engineer)
  • Nels Elde (Evolutionary Geneticist)
  • Damien Fair (Cognitive Neuroscientist)
  • Larissa FastHorse (Playwright)
  • Catherine Coleman Flowers (Environmental Health Advocate)
  • Mary L. Gray (Anthropologist and Media Scholar)
  • NK Jemisin (Speculative Fiction Writer)
  • Ralph Lemon (Artist)
  • Polina V. Lishko (Cellular and Developmental Biologist)
  • Thomas Wilson Mitchell (Property Law Scholar)
  • Natalia Molina (American Historian)
  • Fred Moten (Cultural Theorist and Poet)
  • Cristina Rivera Garza (Fiction Writer)
  • Cécile McLorin Salvant (Singer and Composer)
  • Monika Schleier-Smith (Experimental Physicist)
  • Mohammad R. Seyedsayamdost (Biological Chemist)
  • Forrest Stuart (Sociologist)
  • Nanfu Wang (Documentary Filmmaker)
  • Jacqueline Woodson (Writer)
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