Through the awards program, twenty-one fellows working in fields ranging from evolutionary genetics and developmental biology, to environmental health and experimental physics, to jazz composition, documentary filmmaking, poetry, and speculative fiction will each receive $625,000 over five years. Popularly known as the "genius grants," the awards come without stipulations or reporting requirements and provide fellows with maximum freedom to follow their unique creative vision.
This year's fellows include Isaiah Andrews, a Harvard University econometrician who is developing methods of statistical inference to address key challenges in economics, social science, and medicine; Tressie McMillan Cottom, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who is shaping discourse on issues at the confluence of race, gender, education, and digital technology; Larissa FastHorse, a playwright creating space for Indigenous artists, stories, and experiences in mainstream theater and countering the misrepresentation of Native American perspectives; speculative fiction writer N.K. Jemisin, whose work pushes against genre conventions while exploring questions about structural racism, environmental crises, and familial relationships; University of Southern California historian Natalia Molina, who studies how narratives of racial difference constructed and applied to immigrant groups a century ago continue to shape national policy today; poet, cultural theorist, and New York University professor Fred Moten, who is creating new conceptual spaces to accommodate emerging forms of Black aesthetics, cultural production, and social life; singer and composer Cécile McLorin Salvant, who infuses jazz standards and original compositions with a vibrant, global, Black, feminist sensibility; Monika Schleier-Smith, an experimental physicist at Stanford University, who studies how many-particle quantum systems behave and connects phenomena observed in the laboratory to other areas of physics; and documentary filmmaker Nanfu Wang, whose work examines the impact of authoritarian governance, corruption, and lack of accountability on the lives of individuals.
"In the midst of civil unrest, a global pandemic, natural disasters, and conflagrations, this group of twenty-one exceptionally creative individuals offers a moment for celebration," said MacArthur Fellows managing director Cecilia Conrad. "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."