The Unfundable Fund for Gender & Sexuality Theory, Research, & Practice in honor of
Prof. Lauren Berlant (1957-2021)

Lauren Berlant (1957-2021), Founding Member of the Center for the Study of Gender & Sexuality and the George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of The Center for the Study of Gender & Sexuality, we are launching a campaign to garner immediate-use funding to support graduate student and postdoctoral research projects, and eventually endow, The Unfundable Fund for Gender & Sexuality Research, Theory, and Practice. The name of this fund comes from Center co-founder Prof. Lauren Berlant (1957-2021), who was a tireless advocate for keeping space open for student research that presents “forms of queer we might not yet recognize.” In this spirit, the Unfundable Fund will prioritize humanistic areas of inquiry that are centered in gender and/or sexuality studies and are not easily fundable through existing grant mechanisms. Today, this might be critical sexuality research, affect theory and aesthetics, hybrid artistic practice, or community-based research and engagement. Tomorrow this might be a form or genre for which we do not currently have a vocabulary.

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Since the founding of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality in 1996, we have been committed to funding graduate student research. From 1998-2012 we offered dissertation fellowships for LGBTQ Studies and sexuality research with financial support from the University of Chicago Law School alumni, the Honorable James C. Hormel (1933-2021), who was the first openly gay U.S. Ambassador. The Hormel fellowships funded 21 graduate students from the departments of Anthropology, Comparative Human Development, English, Germanic Studies, History, Music, Political Science, Religious Studies, Social Work, and Sociology. 

The Honorable James C. Hormel, JD'58 (1933-2021)

Our fellows have gone on to pursue cutting-edge sexuality research in the academy and in research organizations such as the Guttmacher Institute and NORC at the University of Chicago. These fellowships also helped to nurture research that formed the basis of now-notable gender and sexuality studies books and a documentary film. Examples include:

These varied projects show how gender and sexuality scholarship can create new forms of inquiry, complicate and expand our historical and theoretical frameworks, and center the experiences of people often left out of mainstream histories when researchers are given crucial financial support and mentorship through a broader university community. Yet, while gender and sexuality scholarship has gained more ground in the academy over the last 25 years, academics working at the intersections of activism and scholarship, working in hybrid practice, or who are pursuing areas of inquiry that test the boundaries of current conventional morality continue to face a deficit of support for their work. Such work is not always recognized as “fundable” by major granting agencies that prioritize the hypothesis over the thought experiment, the research article over the community-based project, and the center over the margins. 

The Unfundable Fund will continue our long-standing support for humanistic, interdisciplinary gender and sexuality research at the Center. Recognizing the increased precarity of academic careers, we will expand our funding to include UChicago postdoctoral scholars as well as graduate students. We are seeking to endow funds to provide two grants each year. Additionally, we hope to fund a yearly one-quarter Visiting Professorship for an assistant professor in the arts, humanities, or the humanistic social sciences whose research fits within the ethos of the Unfundable Fund. The Visiting Professor will be expected to teach one undergraduate course and to do a public lecture about their work.

Through this funding stream, we seek to continue the crucial work of Prof. Lauren Berlant in making the Center an incubator of cutting-edge gender & sexuality research, and to honor the spirit of generosity toward future generations of scholars and activists embodied by the Hon. James Hormel.

Please consider making your gift today to help us reach our goal of garnering $100,000 in by December 31, 2022. Enclosed please find further information on how to make your gift. To discuss your giving options, contact Yasmin Omer, Director of Development, Social Sciences Division or Gina Olson, Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality.