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The area of sociology at the Institute for Latin American Studies (LAI) is also part oft he Departament of Political and Social Sciences. It seeks to combine in its teaching and research activities the interdisciplinary focus privileged by LAI with recent methodological and theoretical developments in different subfields of sociology.

The activities of the area of sociology at LAI are framed by two overarching thematic foci. The first focus critically addresses the macrosociological (self-)understanding inherited from the modernisation theory, according to which Latin American societies are backward copies of European modernity. We start from a process of constitution of contemporary societies in which Latin America has been integrated since the colonial period into a global and interdependent modernity.

The second thematic focus relates to issues of power and differences. We apply microsociological and cultural sociological approaches which treat the construction, representation and negotiation of ethnic, cultural and gender differences as central elements of existing relations of domination.

Based on these two thematic foci, sociological research at LAI covers the following subjects:

  • Latin America within global modernity
  • Circulation of knowledge
  • Gender relations
  • Cultural differences and social inequalities
  • Environmental conflicts

Current Research Projects

The area of sociology at the Institute for Latin American Studies is currently engaged in the following research projects and networks: 


The Mecila – Maria Sibylla Merian International Centre for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences Conviviality-Inequality in Latin America examines past and present forms of social, political, and cultural conviviality in Latin America and the Caribbean. It employs conviviality as an analytical concept to describe ways of living together in specific contexts characterized by diversity and inequality. It is financially supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) from April 2017 until March 2020.

Brazil Research Center

The Brazil Research Center is an interdisciplinary center hosted by the Latin American Institute at the Freie Universität Berlin. The research center encompasses research projects and activities in the humanities and social sciences which examine different phenomena concerning Brazil from a global perspective.

Research Training Group Minor Cosmopolitanisms

The RTG Minor Cosmopolitanisms wishes to establish new ways of studying and understanding the cosmopolitan project against and beyond its Eurocentric legacies. It attempts to overcome the divide which characterises cosmopolitan thought between ‘major’ sociological and philosophical readings of cosmopolitanism as either “actually existing” or normative ideal. The RTG straddles both perspectives by investigating cosmopolitanisms as emerging in a plurality of locally embedded representational and performative practices. Attention to such practices encourages us to think beyond the schism between cultural relativism and humanist universalism, as they combine visions of transcultural justice, peace and conviviality with an ethical commitment to difference and alterity. As such they bring into being cosmopolitanisms in a ‘minor’ mode unforeseen by dominant scripts and creating new subject positions within hegemonic discourses.

The RTG Minor Cosmopolitanisms started in 2016 as a collaboration between Universität Potsdam, Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt Universität zu Berlin.


PRODIGY is an interdisciplinary and interinstitutional research project which intends to understand the interdependencies between functional soil biodiversity, human-environment interactions, governance and the potential of socio-economic-ecological transformation of local societies at the border triangle of Brazil, Peru and Bolivia, so-called MAP-region.

Dr. Regine Schönenberg coordinates the project within the area of sociology at LAI. PRODIGY is financially supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) from March 2017 until February 2022.

Dissertation Projects

A constitutive part of sociological research project at  LAI are current dissertation projects. Please find a list of these projects. Please find a list of these projects here.

Completed Research Projects

International Research Training GroupGraduate Progamme "Between Spaces: Movements, Actors and Representations of Globalisation" (2009-2019)

Sponsored by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the International Graduate Programme ‘Between Spaces: Movements, Actors and Representations of Globalisation’ opens up new perspectives on globalisation research in the social sciences and humanities. By developing a dialogue between disciplines and diverse scholarly traditions in Germany and Mexico, the research program seeks to contribute to the reorientation of Area Studies as a transnational and interdisciplinary field of study. The primary foci of the Programme are movements between various regions of the world and the new spaces that have arisen over past and present stages of globalisation.

Research Network on Interdependent Inequalities in Latin America (2009-2016)

desiguALdades.net is an interdisciplinary, international, and multi-institutional research network on social inequalities in Latin America supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) in the frame of its funding line on area studies. The Lateinamerika-Institut of the Freie Universität Berlin (LAI, Institute for Latin American Studies of the Free University of Berlin) and the Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (IAI, Ibero-American Institute of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Berlin) are in overall charge of the research network. The duration of the project is from December 2009 to November 2016.

CarBioCial (2011-2016)

Carbiocial is a joint project involving twelve German and Austrian universities which was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and developed multidisciplinary perspectives on various interdependencies between climate change and land management. It was coordinated in the area of sociology at LAI by Dr. Regine Schönenberg.

Social Movements, the Public Sphere, and new Configurations of Law in Latin America (2008-2009)

The project explores the relationship between social movements, the public sphere and law. It enters a new area of research in so far as the literature still assumes a dualism between “rule” and “unrule” of law. This dualism is based on a reductionist understanding of rule of law, which misunderstands the interaction between social movements and law. The project explores the internal nexus between law and political public sphere in order to emphasize the role of social movements as a catalyst for the introduction of new topics to both the public sphere and the legal system. Funding: German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES, Brasil) and Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva (MINcy, Argentina).