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University of Toronto professor receives prestigious MacArthur Fellowship

September 29, 2015

“Genius grant” with no strings attached, encourages creativity for the benefit of humanity

Toron­to, ON — Dim­itri Nakas­sis of the depart­ment of clas­sics has been rec­og­nized for his extra­or­di­nary orig­i­nal­i­ty and future promise with a MacArthur Fel­low­ship.

“Nakas­sis is a clas­si­cist trans­form­ing our under­stand­ing of pre­his­toric Greek soci­eties,” reads the cita­tion on the MacArthur Foun­da­tion web­site. “His rare intel­lec­tu­al breadth, com­pris­ing philol­o­gy, archae­ol­o­gy and con­tem­po­rary social and eco­nom­ic the­o­ry, has equipped Nakas­sis to chal­lenge the long-held view that Late Bronze Age Myce­naean pala­tial soci­ety (1400–1200 BC) was a high­ly-cen­tral­ized oli­garchy, quite dis­tinct from the demo­c­ra­t­ic city-states of clas­si­cal Greece.  Instead, he pro­pos­es that pow­er and resources were more broad­ly shared.”

The John D. and Cather­ine T. MacArthur Foun­da­tion awards the $650,000 USD grants direct­ly to tal­ent­ed indi­vid­u­als to pur­sue their cre­ative activ­i­ties. Recip­i­ents are free to use their award to advance their cur­rent exper­tise, engage in bold new work or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the direc­tion of their careers alto­geth­er.

For Nakas­sis, intel­lec­tu­al curios­i­ty has proven a trust­wor­thy career guide. “What draws me to sur­vey, I’ve real­ized late­ly, is the urge to hike to the top of a hill to see what’s up there – most of the time it’s noth­ing, but that makes the suc­cess­es all that more excit­ing – the urge to turn down a road or path to see where it heads.”

But, he notes that archae­o­log­i­cal sur­veys and exca­va­tions are also full of sur­pris­ing moments where “you have to rethink what you thought was hap­pen­ing, your old inter­pre­ta­tions of the land­scape or the site.”

The Uni­ver­si­ty is thrilled by the Nakas­sis’ hon­our. Accord­ing to Chris­ter Bru­un, chair of the depart­ment of clas­sics at U of T, the award­ing of the MacArthur Fel­low­ship to Nakas­sis “is a recog­ni­tion of the fact that some of our bright­est young schol­ars con­tin­ue to be attract­ed to the study of the human­i­ties and, in Dimitri’s case, in par­tic­u­lar clas­si­cal antiq­ui­ty.”

“I look for­ward with great antic­i­pa­tion to the dis­cov­er­ies which the fel­low­ship will allow him to make,” said Bru­un.

Nakas­sis is the first pro­fes­sor at U of T to receive a MacArthur Fel­low­ship and joins an illus­tri­ous and diverse group of 2015 fel­lows that includes jour­nal­ist Ta-Nehisi Coates, pup­petry artist Basil Twist, neu­ro­sci­en­tist Beth Stevens and Broad­way star Lin-Manuel Miran­da.  U of T alum­na, Sara Sea­ger, received one in 2013. Last year, U of T’s Cit­i­zen Lab, became the first Cana­di­an orga­ni­za­tion to win the MacArthur Foun­da­tion’s Award for Cre­ative and Effec­tive Insti­tu­tions, the ver­sion of the “genius grants” award­ed to orga­ni­za­tions.


For more infor­ma­tion, con­tact:

Kim Luke
Direc­tor, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions
Arts and Sci­ence, Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to

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