José Edwin Argueta Funes

Assistant Professor of Law, UC Berkeley School of Law
Alumni; Ph.D. 2023

Dissertation Title:
"Hawaiian Common Law: Adoption, Legal Change, and Cultural Difference, 1840–1940"

I research and write at the intersection of law, socio-economic change, and empire, with particular attention to North America and the Pacific World in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. My research wrestles with law’s ability to enable and inhibit change, at times allowing societies to reinvent themselves and at others constraining them to existing bounds.  My dissertation, Making a Custom in Hawai‘i: Adopted Children and Law’s Transformations, 1840-1940, traces the history of claims by adopted children to inherit from their adoptive parents. The project shows the persistence of a Hawaiian legal context—both in and outside the courts—as Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) and haole (white) litigants, lawyers, and judges argued over how legal reform did or did not change the structure of Hawaiian property and family relations. In the process, I develop new understandings of the history of family and family law in Hawai‘i and the United States, the relationship between courts and legislatures in the Anglo-American legal imagination, the history of indigenous governance, and the place of indigenous people within American empire.

A native of San Salvador, El Salvador, I attended the University of Virginia as a Jefferson Scholar, earning highest distinction majoring in history and philosophy. My thesis, “Islands of History, Islands of Hope: Citizenship, Belonging, and Housing in Twentieth-Century Hawai‘i,” was awarded the Bernard Peyton Chamberlain Memorial Prize for the Outstanding Distinguished Majors Thesis of 2013. In 2019, I obtained a J.D. from Yale Law School, where I served as Legal History Fellow and a Coker Fellow and was awarded the Quintin Johnstone Prize in Real Property Law. My work has been supported by the Newberry Consortium in American Indian Studies, the American Society for Legal History, the Hurst Institute at the University of Wisconsin Law School, and the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation.

Degree Year
Year of Study
Area of Interest
Constitutional History
Environmental History
Immigration & Migration
Imperial History
Legal History
Native American
Home Department & Other Affiliations
19th Century
Latin America and the Caribbean
Pacific and Oceania
United States