Professor Wangui Muigai named 2022 Andrew Carnegie Fellow

Wangui M Muigai

Wangui Muigai

Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies and History Wangui Muigai has been named a 2022 Andrew Carnegie Fellow, becoming the second Brandeis faculty member to be chosen by the program.

The Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program recognizes a select group of extraordinary scholars and writers to receive a $200,000 stipend to support scholarship in the humanities and social sciences that addresses enduring issues confronting society. Muigai is among 28 scholars, journalists and authors selected as a fellow this year.

Muigai is a historian of medicine and science whose research focuses on race, health, and reproduction. Her fellowship will support her project, “Infant Mortality, Race, and the American Roots of a Health Inequality," which draws on a trove of archival and contemporary sources to understand how parents, health professionals, and various experts have responded to the deaths of Black infants, and grappled with why Black babies die at higher rates than other racial and ethnic groups. 

“Tracing this history from the antebellum era of slavery to the present illuminates how efforts to raise awareness of and divert attention away from Black infant deaths have been shaped by medical, ethical, and societal debates over which deaths deserve attention and which lives are worth saving,” Muigai said.

Through this study, Muigai details the strategies Black communities have pursued to protect their youngest and how these efforts have figured in struggles for freedom, civil rights and racial justice. 

“In doing so, I aim to illuminate the ways health inequalities emerge and evolve, and why we as a society struggle to eliminate them,” Muigai said. “More than a medical concern, the reality of premature death continues to haunt discussions of race in America and stands as a powerful reminder that the politics of Black grief and death remain highly contested.”

Founded in 2015, the Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program involves a competitive nomination and selection process. It is the most generous stipend of its kind, and to date, the program has named 244 fellows, representing a philanthropic investment of $48.8 million. Brandeis Professor of Anthropology Sarah Lamb, a cultural anthropologist who focuses on aging and gender, was previously named a fellow in 2019.

More than 600 individuals — including heads of independent research institutes, societies, and think tanks; university presidents; directors of major university presses; and editors of leading newspapers and magazines — are invited to recommend up to two individuals for nomination for the fellowship program. All proposals undergo an anonymous evaluation before the top proposals are sent to a jury for a final review and selection. The award is for a period of up to two years, and typically results in a book or major study.

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences, Research

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