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Fragmented modernity

Fragmented modernity and social transformation processes


Research in this area is concerned with the conditions, terms and formation of inequalities associated with modernization in Latin America. Modernization is understood as a problem of tradition and change, including, on the one hand, the tendencies, persistence, and identification with tradition, and on the other, a variety of cultural dynamics, including, the development of social movements as well as political and economic transformation processes. Research topics include the emergence of power relations, the conditions for economic development or stagnation, and the meaning of judicial pluralism and violent processes.

The History and Anthropology of the Americas group examines the ethno-historical, ethno-graphical and ethnological components of these topics; sociological, political and economic science concentrate on the analysis of social, political and economic transformations; and the Latin American sciences examine literary and cultural productions.

Current and projected (3 year) work areas include: Latin American transformation processes; political culture, public spaces, and political portrayal; and the role of Latin American intellectuals and the significance of knowledge and power.

Work area: Transformation processes of Latin America

Research and teaching in this field is concerned with the development of modernity, from the construction of colonial societies and dependent states to the fragmented modernity of our present. Factors examined include the heterogeneity of cultural origins and investigations consider the meaning of multi-culturality and cultural amalgamation. The scope of current work ranges from comprehensive analysis of large-scale, multi-layered phenomena to detailed studies of limited analytical units. Methodologically, researchers self-consciously define their objects of study in exploratory terms, recognizing new spaces of interaction as they appear in various investigative processes. Thematically, research includes the topics of conquest and displacement; the relationships of individual places, organizations, and families in trans-boundary relations; rapid urbanization processes, including those leading to the largest cities or settlements of the world; and internal and external migration processes leading to the connection of multi-cultural transnational areas. Analysis also includes studies of competing and conflicting standards and judicial conceptions as they compose specific group and gender relations.

For the Anthropology of the Americas, Latin American sciences, and the social sciences, attention is given to intercultural negotiation processes and corresponding media representations and cultural references and their revision. For the economic sciences, the relevant questions include the dynamics of accumulation, social wealth distribution, and social security.

Work area: Political culture, public spaces, political portrayal

The fundamental research question here is how to interpret political transformations in deeper terms than political self-portrayal, and to this end researchers examine political and cultural texts and representations to complement the classical instruments of the social sciences: their language- and text- based analysis seeks to illuminate the logic and grammar of the different political cultures and the significance of representation.

For example, analyses of the phenomena of the carnival include examination of the political theater of the streets, the development of new neo-populist political styles, the portrayal of the political elites and the masses, and the social movements associated with this creativity and expression.

Relevant topics also include the self-representations and resonance of the Mexican Zapatista movement and the transformation of the public sphere and democratization in Brazil.

Planned research includes examination of the gender specific meaning of “ciudadanía” in multi-ethnical and multi-cultural societies, democratization and autonomization efforts (from above as well as below), the production and destruction of public spaces, and questions on the meaning of justice, the constitution of states, rights and their articulation and communication.

Work area: Knowledge and power - the importance of Latin American intellectuals

This area features a number of different, but related research lines. Research on the developments of academic disciplines and their social basis in international perspective has led to a comparative sociology project involving researches from Mexico, France, and Germany (and possibly Brazil) in co-operation with the UNAM in Mexico. Ongoing research on the importance of intellectuals for national and international power relations in Mexico has already produced significant results and an expansion of this work to include the Ibero-American institute and the role of international technocrats. A third point area complements studies of elite power/knowledge with work on social movements and non-governmental organizations and with emphasis on the use of internationally recognized knowledge and experience on questions of human rights, their violation, and discourse on them, and especially, feminist discourses and the use of the new information and communication technologies (keyword: “Communication Rights”). Currently, research projects involve other universities and the Institute for Ibero- America in Hamburg are being expanded in the drafting of a project with the title “women's rights are human rights.”