Scientific expertise at the LAI is notable not simply in terms of specific expert knowledge on the part of individual scientists, but above all, in research and teaching, by their relevant regional-specific knowledge, the series of comprehensive questions they are posing, and the consensus they have developed on collective research objectives toward the end of fuller integration in inter-disciplinary and comparative approaches.
A central feature of the Latin America Institute is the organization of inter-disciplinary study and research groups, including excursions, where students work together with researchers from the LAI and elsewhere on thematic and regional topics. This group work often forms the basis of undergraduate courses of study and graduate research and degree thesis. The LAI has developed close co-operative relationships with colleagues in Latin America and Latin American research institutions world wide. In Berlin, the resources for research in Latin American studies, including libraries, archives, and museums, is extensive and more than sufficient for academic qualification as well as for inter-disciplinary research and international co-operation. This strong institutional foundation serves as the basis for development of graduation programs and schools, including the development of Master Programs.
Planned research activities for the next four years include the following three topics: “Fragmented modernity and social transformation processes”, “Globality and Locality in transnational and continental exchange”, “woman and gender research” (and where questions of the latter are part of the first two).
Institutional affiliations supporting research expertise and emphases on studies of Mexico, Brazil and the Andes are substantial. For Mexico, researchers at the LAI are working with colleagues at the Ibero-American Institute and the University of Potsdam in an inter-disciplinary research group on the topic of “fractures of tradition - power - limits, changes in Mexico”. Researchers specializing in studies of Brazil are currently planning an exchange program with the title “entity and diversity of modernity” through an existing co-operation agreement with the university São Paulo in the context of the DAAD (German academical exchange service) program UNIBRAL.
The Anthropology of the Americas project, supported by the VW-foundation and conducted in co-operation with the University of (UPAO) in Trujillo), examines the Andean area as a "hybrid" society based on the incorporation of indigenous cultures by the dominant Spanish and featuring ethnic and cultural limits as well as differentiation and suppression.
The project, entitled, “the construction of ethnic and cultural identities in the colonial city in Spanish America with the example of Trujillo Peru (1534-1619)”, examines this culture in the context of globalization and the breaking up of the old, relatively stable ethnic and cultural relations of dominance. In co-operation with the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos (IEP) in Lima, a number of competing studies of the ethnic, gender, and cultural dimensions of modernization have been completed and published.
Interest in the Pacific and the other “Americas”, including south-south relations, is being furthered by co-operation within the FU as well as with international research groups. Discussion of the Andes and the “Pacific area” is extensive. Led by American anthropologists, research includes the “Peoples and Cultures on the Pacific Rim” project in association with the University of Osaka (supported by the Japanese science Ministry) and a group of Mexican researchers. Research on Brazil, with special reference to Japanese immigration, is being conducted with the “Atlantic area” as a reference point. Brazil is also the focal point for Caribbean studies, with particular interest on the meaning of “Black Atlantic” for new, euro-centric perceptions of the continent.
Scholars with special interest in Central American are presently examining Cuba as a pivot point for modernization processes occurring in Europe, North America, Africa and Latin America and interest in how the development of new hybrid structures on economic, social, political and cultural level in the state-socialist project after 1959 has been transformed since 1989.
Since 1982, a number of scholars at the LAI have developed a strong “inter-disciplinary gender" research and teaching interest and done so in cooperation with other FU professors.
Inter-disciplinary gender research has significantly shaped the Latin America Institute's profile. Recognized internally, this group is concerned with innovative approaches to inter-disciplinary work and the advantage of considering the role of gender orders and constructions for understanding Latin American cultural dynamics and social transformation processes. Similarly, they have advanced the use of feminist theory, gender theory, and Queer Theory as well as qualitative social research, discourse analysis and other methodologies in other areas.
Latin America Institute scholars analyzing gender have a particular interest in the concept of spaces (the "spatial turn") and movements and such topics as:
„Symbolic representations and Trans-culturality “, „transnational and public spaces “, „political cultures and movements “, „violence and legality “, „Virtuality and Mediality “ and „ circulations of knowledge “.
A number of research projects, international co-operation, colloquia, courses and conferences regularly take place at the LAI to address these topics.
At present, gender research is being conducted by the following LAI scholars: Prof. Dr. Anja Bandau, Andrea Blumtritt M.A., Rike Bolte M.A., Prof. Dr. Marianna Braig, Jessica Gevers M.A., Dr. Karoline Noack, Dr. Stephanie Schütze and PD Dr. Martha Zapata Galindo.
For many years, a number of well-known translators have been involved in the organization of a translator workshop.