Katherine Funes

Katherine Funes, third-year UCI global studies graduate student, has received a competitive one-year Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation fellowship. The award, which includes $50,000 in support, is made possible through a partnership between the American Council of Learned Societies and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support original and thought provoking research. Funes has been recognized as one of 45 awardees, selected from a pool of more than 700 applicants through a rigorous, interdisciplinary peer review process.

Funding will support Funes' graduate research which "takes issue with reductive framings of LGBTIQ people in El Salvador as solely victims in an inherently violent country who can only access safety through migrating toward more 'progressive' countries, most notably the United States," says Funes. "I emphasize the agency and social movements of this community within El Salvador, recognizing that many queer and transgender people never leave the country. I am especially concerned with the current 'state of exception' El Salvador has been under the last two years that suspends civil liberties and due process to combat gang violence. We are seeing thousands arbitrarily arrested, including LGBTIQ Salvadorans, which shows the limits of these kinds of carceral responses," they say. "By turning directly to LGBTIQ people, I illuminate community-oriented responses that critique these kinds of state maneuvers and offer anti-carceral material alternatives."

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Funes is a graduate of Mills College where they earned their degree in ethnic studies and political, legal, & economic analysis. They chose UCI for graduate school – and specifically the School of Social Sciences’ new doctoral program in global studies – for the “transdisciplinary approaches to research and training global studies offered along with faculty who modeled that in their own work.”

Their research is the focus of an op-ed that ran last March on the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) site. They’re currently wrapping up a two-year fellowship as a UCI Environmental Racism and Health Equity Fellow, and last year, they were a Summer Fellow for the UC Berkeley Othering & Belonging Institute.

“I’ve navigated higher education as a first-generation student which has informed the ways I critically approach research and teaching. A lot of this experience has been a learning curve for me and I’ve relied greatly on the support of other students, staff, and faculty with the same story,” they say. “As the child of Salvadoran and Peruvian immigrants, my sense of life in the U.S. has always been tied to the experiences of my communities abroad. This positioning has molded my own political and research commitments to transnational solidarity.”

Their mentors include UCI global and international studies associate professor Long Bui, professor and department chair Eve Darian-Smith, assistant professor Alexander Huezo, and assistant professor Fantasia Painter; and history associate professor Chelsea Schields.

Funes plans to complete their Ph.D. by the end of spring 2027, and they hope to continue pursuing research and teaching opportunities thereafter as a professor.

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