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British Academy Fellow awarded ‘genius grant’ of $625,000

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A British Academy Fellow has been awarded a ‘genius grant’ of $625,000 in recognition of his work on the history of African colonialism and nationalism.

Derek Peterson, a professor in the Departments of History and Afro-American and African Studies at the University of Michigan, is one of 24 people from a range of disciplines to have received the $625,000 Fellowship from the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation.

The so-called genius grants are awarded annually to people who have shown “extraordinary talent and creativity.”

Commenting on the award, Professor Peterson said: “Winning the award is a great affirmation of my scholarly work. Scholars of Africa usually labour in dignified obscurity. This award means that I have a chance to engage with new and wider audiences. I am hugely honoured.”

Peterson’s work focuses on the intellectual and cultural history of eastern Africa.

Over the past 10 years, he has worked with Ugandan colleagues and Michigan students to rescue, catalogue and digitize endangered government archives in the west and the south of Uganda.

He plans to use the MacArthur award to develop a new project that aims to preserve the radio and television archives of Uganda’s national broadcaster.

Professor Peterson was elected to the British Academy in 2016 as a Corresponding Fellow - a scholar outside the UK recognised for their outstanding achievement in BA disciplines. 

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is one of the largest independent foundations in the United States.

It aims to “support creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world.”

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