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Kevin Funk

Ph.D. Candidate, Political Science
2014-2015 Tedder Family Doctoral Fellowship

Kevin Funk, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science, used his 2014 Tedder Family Doctoral Fellowship in the Humanities to further his dissertation project entitled, “Capitalists of the World Unite? Locating an Imagined Community of Transnational Capitalists in Latin America’s Booming Relations with the Arab World.” In this project, Funk questions the existence of a so-called “transnational capitalist class” in the business relations between Latin America and the Arab world. This identification of economic elites who possess a globalized, cosmopolitan mindset because of international commercial exchange is misleading. Instead, Funk argues, these economic elites retain national and territorial identities.

During the summer of 2014, Funk traveled to South America supported by his fellowship and visited Colombia, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. While in these countries, he interviewed Latin American business elites with strong connections to the Arab world. His goal was to understand their motivations. Why did they form these business relationships? How do they understand globalization? Who do they see as “we” or “us” in the global marketplace? What he found was that despite strong economic ties between Latin America and the Arab world, there was minimal cross-cultural awareness and less still any sense of themselves as global actors with a common transnational mindset. Rather, their identities are still oriented around the nation-state. Ethnic and national markers still mattered despite global economic and political relations. Moreover, the “transnational” label seems to function as a rhetorical category, which attempts to predict and identify new directions in the global market based on a shared class consciousness. As such, it does not adequately account for the existing evidence. Thus, Funk argues for a different view of globalization. Globalization does not necessarily produce a global, cosmopolitan mind-set. Global economic elites, Funk suggests, do not have a unified class consciousness.

This project challenges us to reconsider what “global” and “transnational” actually mean, as well as the relationship between economic interests and class interests. Funk’s dissertation, once complete, will underscore the need for more research in Latin America and other regions within the U.S./European-focused field of International Relations.