The University Record, June 19, 2000

Alcock receives MacArthur Foundation ‘genius grant’

By Diane Swanbrow
News and Information Services

Classical archaeologist Susan E. Alcock is one of 25 new MacArthur Fellows announced by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Alcock, an associate professor of classical archaeology and classics, will receive $500,000 over five years.

A scholar of Greek and Roman archaeology, Alcock works at the intersection of social history and archaeology, using new theoretical and methodological approaches to reconstruct the history of the ancient world. Her first book, Graecia Capta: The Landscapes of Roman Greece (1993), focused on the interpretation of survey data and provided a new and complex picture of demographic change and settlement patterns during Roman domination of Greece. Since then, Alcock has expanded her focus to include more intangible aspects of the ancient world—the power of religion in shaping the landscape, and Greek and Roman perceptions of the terrain they inhabited.

“Sue Alcock is an intellectual dynamo who is forging exciting new paths in the field of Roman archaeology,” says Elaine Gazda, curator of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology and professor of history of art. “Her work in survey archaeology addresses broad questions about the ancient economy, landscape and memory, and it does so with an interdisciplinary expertise that spans the Empire. Sue can and does make connections among Rome and its far-flung provinces as few, if any, before her have done. Her work is transforming the way we think about the field.”

Alcock’s current research extends the use of archaeological surface surveys, moving beyond economic investigations of markets and settlements to address cultural questions about perceptions of landscape and social memory. To do this, she is combining archeological data with literary sources, focusing on Greek authors around A.D. 100, particularly the travel writer Pausanias. By drawing from sources across disciplinary boundaries, Alcock is exploring new methodologies and developing new theories for understanding ancient Greece and Rome. She is the co-editor of Placing the Gods: Sanctuaries and Sacred Space in Ancient Greece (1994) and the forthcoming Pausanias: Travel and Memory in Roman Greece.

Alcock received a B.A. in 1983 from Yale University and a Ph.D. in 1989 from the University of Cambridge. After teaching at the University of Reading in England, she joined the University of Michigan in 1992. She received the Henry Russel Award from the U-M and an Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award from the Archaeological Institute of America in 1998. This year Alcock was named an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor for her outstanding contributions to undergraduate education.

“Since her arrival at the University, she has developed four new courses for undergraduates and two new courses for graduates,” notes Provost Nancy Cantor. “Evaluations by both students and colleagues suggest that she is one of the most exciting young teachers of undergraduates in the College, combining showmanship with substance in a truly effective manner.”

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is one of the largest private philanthropic foundations in the United States. Including the new group, a total of 588 fellows, ranging in age from 18 to 82, have been named since the program began in 1981.

Among U-M faculty who are recent winners are Profs. Kun-Liang Guan, Vonnie McLoyd, Thylias Moss, Michael Marletta, Henry T. Wright, John Holland, Alice Fulton, Rebecca J. Scott and Ruth Behar.