SLS Visiting Human Rights Professor Receives MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’

STANFORD, CA, October 5, 2023 – E. Tendayi Achiume, the Leah Kaplan visiting professor in human rights at Stanford Law School (SLS), was one of 20 people selected for a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, commonly known as the “genius grant.” The fellowship includes an $800,000 stipend and is “intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual and professional inclinations,” according to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s website. 

The award, announced on October 4, recognizes Achiume’s scholarship and longtime work in the areas in which she teaches at SLS, including global issues of racism and xenophobia, as well as the legal and ethical impacts of colonialism on contemporary international migration. Achiume teaches classes on International Human Rights and Third World Approaches to International Law, Borders, and Migration, among other courses at SLS.

Tendayi Achiume

“This award presents an opportunity to further my research, policy, and advocacy work in innovative ways that bring forward essential work in this area conducted by racially marginalized communities in particular,” said Achiume, who, in 2017, became the first woman to serve as the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. “In my current seminar on empire, borders, and international migration, it has been energizing and inspiring to exchange ideas with students who are similarly interested in the project of remaking law on more equitable terms.”

Achiume said that her focus on reconceptualizing international law “pushes for deeper reckoning with the ways in which colonialism and other forms of empire continue to shape how international law works in the present.” As an international lawyer working in the United Nations, she has “similarly pushed for approaches to the most pressing global challenges, such as climate change, that grapple with the racial and national inequities that are at the core of these challenges.”

We are so pleased to see Tendayi Achiume receive this recognition for her groundbreaking work, which is not only conceptually innovative in the field of international law but also of potentially great practical importance,” said Jenny Martinez, Stanford Provost and former Dean of Stanford Law School. 

“All of us at Stanford Law School and the broader university are delighted and gratified to see her recognized with an award that promotes the same ultimate goal as hers: creating a better world for all of us,” said Robert Weisberg, Edwin E. Huddleson, Jr. Professor of Law and SLS’s interim dean.

Achiume, the Alicia Miñana Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law, was born in Zambia. She won UCLA Law School’s 2020 Distinguished Teaching Award, the highest honor for excellence in teaching, as well as the Eby Award for the Art of Teaching. Achiume also serves as a research associate with the African Centre for Migration and Society at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa and as a research associate with the Refugee Studies Center at the University of Oxford.

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective, and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.