Duke alum Josh Kun receives MacArthur ‘genius grant’

Josh Kun, 2016 MacArthur Fellow, USC, Los Angeles, CA, Thursday, Sep. 1, 2016.
Josh Kun, 2016 MacArthur Fellow, USC, Los Angeles, CA, Thursday, Sep. 1, 2016.

Adding to the list of Duke alums with notable awards, Josh Kun, Trinity ‘93, received a MacArthur Fellowship—commonly known as a “genius grant”—Thursday. 

As a professor of communication in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, Kun studies how art and pop culture can be used for cross-cultural exchange as well as how to bring to life forgotten historical narratives. He focuses on racial and ethnic identity in his works, which include academic scholarship, exhibitions and performances.

“While our communities, our nation and our world face both historic and emerging challenges, these 23 extraordinary individuals give us ample reason for hope,” MacArthur Foundation President Julia Stasch said in a release. “They are breaking new ground in areas of public concern, in the arts and in the sciences, often in unexpected ways. Their creativity, dedication and impact inspire us all.”

Kun and 22 others will receive a $625,000 grant distributed over five years for their creativity and contributions to their fields. The winners this year included writers, visual artists, scientists and non-profit organization leaders.

Much of Kun’s work focuses on the diverse communities of Los Angeles with an emphasis on music, art and food in American life. His book “To Live and Dine in LA: Menus and the Making of the Modern City” delved into urban history using taste. He also examined African American, Jewish American, Mexican American and Mexican popular music in his 2006 work “Audiotopia.”

The MacArthur Fellowship aims “to provide recipients with the flexibility to pursue their own artistic, intellectual and professional activities,” according to its website.

“In work that spans academic scholarship, exhibitions and performances, Kun unearths and brings to life forgotten historical narratives through finely grained analyses of material and sonic manifestations of popular culture,” the MacArthur Foundation wrote in Kun’s profile.

Kun received a B.A. in literature from Duke before earning a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1999.

He has curated exhibitions and installations for the Getty Foundation, the Museum of Latin American Art, the Skirball Center and the Grammy Museum. He also co-founded the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation, which produces albums and concerts of Jewish American music.


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