Alumna Receives MacArthur Genius Grant

Julie Livingston, J89, is a historian who studies the response to illness in resource-poor settings

Julie Livingston, J89, is one of 24 people named 2013 MacArthur Fellows, the so-called “genius grant” awarded annually to exceptional researchers, scientists and artists. Livingston, a public-health historian and anthropologist, is a professor of history at Rutgers University.

She combines archival research with ethnography to explore how care is provided to individuals suffering from chronic illnesses and debilitating ailments in regions with a dearth of health-care resources.

Julie Livingston. Photo : MacArthur FoundationJulie Livingston. Photo : MacArthur Foundation
For the last 15 years, her work has centered on Botswana, in southern Africa. Her most recent book, Improvising Medicine: An African Oncology Ward in an Emerging Epidemic, documents the ordeals of patients and caregivers in a cancer ward in Botswana as they manage pain and cope with terminal illness amid inadequate staffing, cultural differences and obsolete equipment.

In an interview with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which makes the awards, Livingston said she wanted to know what happens when people get sick, how they take care of one another and how they create meaning of their experience. The cancer ward, she said, serves as a microcosm to help understand power, vulnerability and hope, as well as medical practice.

The MacArthur Fellows program awards unrestricted $625,000 fellowships to individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits. 

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