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Anthropologist receives MacArthur award

Anthropologist Erik Mueggler is one of 24 MacArthur Fellows named in 2002 and will receive $500,000 over the next five years.

The award was announced last week by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Mueggler, an associate professor of anthropology, will receive the money in what the foundation describes as support with no strings attached.

   Mueggler (Photo courtesy of MacArthur    Foundation)

Mueggler, 40, explores Chinese communities to enrich the understanding of ethnic minorities in China’s vast political, social and cultural landscape. He examines how repercussions of the Cultural Revolution continue to be seen in the daily lives of ordinary people in the provinces of southwestern China.
“It’s an enormous honor,” Mueggler says. He is uncertain how he will use the money, “but it will spur me to be more creative,” he says.

U-M boasts 19 award recipients since 1981, including Mueggler. He is the third person from his department to receive this honor, after Ruth Behar in 1988 and Henry T. Wright in 1993.

“Our department is honored by this prestigious award to Erik Mueggler, one of the rising stars in cultural anthropology,” says Conrad P. Kottak, chairman of the Department of Anthropology.

“We will do all we can to make his tenure as a MacArthur fellow a productive and creative one.”

This year’s fellows were “highly focused and tenacious, and distinctively fresh and original in approach,” says Daniel J. Socolow, director of the MacArthur Fellows Program. “They are extraordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

Mueggler received a bachelor’s degree in 1987 from Cornell University, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1990 and 1996, respectively. He joined the faculty in 1996 and has been an associate professor since 2001.

He has received many grants and fellowships for his research, including a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship in 1996. Mueggler wrote the book “The Age of Wild Ghosts” (2001), and his articles have appeared in “The Journal of Asian Studies,” “Cultural Anthropology” and “Modern China.”

The foundation, created in 1978, is one of the largest private philanthropic foundations in the United States. With $4.2 billion in assets, the foundation makes grants totaling approximately $180 million annually. Including this year’s group, 635 people, ranging in age from 18 to 82, have been named MacArthur Fellows since the program’s inception in 1981.

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