Conceptually, research in this area features a multi-leveled structure whereby studies of global and local, economic, social and political processes are associated with studies of cultural meaning, exchange, perception and the co-operation among societies.
Research considers the economic and political relations of individual Latin American states and regions with their counterparts worldwide, the consequences of these relations for Latin America, and associated social and cultural exchanges, mutual perceptions, and their articulation themselves in local, global and regional terms. Current and planned research work involves: 1) Demarcation and delimitation, 2) Visual fragments/text fragments, 3) Slavery and African diaspora in Latin America, 4) Latin America in Berlin, 5) Development in an interdependent world.
Traditionally, the history of Latin America has been written from the perspective of the nations and the main urban centers and ignored circumstances that appear relevant to researchers today, including, the multiplicity of cultures, the local and regional narrations of people, the complex negotiation processes between peripheral power constellations and the modernization coalitions of the center. The perceptions of others, the positioning of regions opposite to Europe, and opposition of North America and South American neighbors, have long been masked -- as can easily be shown by the example of Mexico -- behind homogenizing myths. Using the examples of Mexico and Brazil, inter-disciplinary groups of researchers will examine the temporal and spatial dimensions and dynamics of border narratives, do so from a decentralized perspective, and at the same time, modeling the demarcation of borders and delimitations in different fields to the end of developing a highly-differentiated view of Latin American societies.
Research includes analysis of social, political, legal, economic and cultural demarcation and delimitation processes in Brazil and Mexico, both internally and regionally. Currently being conducted in separate working groups, the research is leading to comparative questions involving other regions.
The field of Latin American Studies has grown to include Brazilian studies and Caribbean studies and comparative approaches, including studies of the literatures and cultures of the Hispanic-Americas, Luso-Americas and the Caribbean. Planned future work emphasizes comparative studies designed to comprehend different linguistic, historical, and cultural dynamics, in the different languages and traditions, and their relationships.
The construction of identities, whether considered in ethnic, gender, political or social terms, is understood to involve questions about the multi-layered dimensions of national and cultural borders, of how these borders are trespassed, negotiated, included and excluded, and of the ways these dimensions are represented and narrated. These representations and narrations are not completely understood when considered in the traditional terms of economic, social and political processes. Scientific work, and especially the Anthropology of the Americas, is dependent on visual information and an understanding of allegoric representations, the representation and interpretation of standards and values, and the perception of images.
Recognition of this complexity recommends the development of newer culture-theoretical and methodological approaches. Questions of text-screen relations, trans-coding, trans-culturalization, narrations and re-translations will be treated both in historical and current contexts and on the basis of concrete examples.
Berlin researchers have been working in this field for some time. Research on sense constructions in pre-colonial societies includes the work of Eduard Seler on Meso- America and the Andes area and Gerdt Kutscher for the cultures of the pre-Spanish Pacific coast of the Andes area. This tradition has continued in the field of Anthropology of the Americas over the last decades. A corresponding work group has been established at the LAI and works regularly on a set of projects, including close co-operation with international research in the area of iconography.
Research has demonstrated the scholarly value of image-, narrative- and cosmological-based reconstructions, along with relevant narrative and semiotic theories, for an understanding of pre-colonial sense and societies.
For the earliest work, images obtained from archaeological expeditions were evaluated in respect to ethnic-historical interpretation models. With the establishment of colonial rule, combinations of European and pre-colonial representational forms in many places can nevertheless be proven.
This context allows for the formulation of a variety of inter-disciplinary research questions. Visual evidence from the Baroque and Romantic periods as well as “Modernismo” offer sense reconstructions best examined in the context of other modernity. The meaning of female and male shapes, for example, are also best reconstructed in an inter-disciplinary manner -- as evident in the present Museum for Ethnology exhibition, “Copyright by Kadiwéu.” Developed with students of the Latin America Institute, this exhibition shows surprising “global fragmented” connections, including, for instance, the use of body and ceramic paintings of the Kadiwéu in the Brazilian Mato Grosso as resources for the reconstruction of buildings in Berlin- Hellersdorf (which, incidentally, involved the cooperation of the Kadiwéu women in architectural planning.)
For several centuries, the Africa/Europe/Latin America commercial triangle formed an important basis of colonialism and, as some research has shown, a source of finance for European industrialization. Several million Africans were brought to Latin America to work as slaves in plantations, households, and gold mines. After emancipations, european race theories in many ways contributed to the exclusion of freed slaves and their descendants, and to this day the interaction of Europe, Africa, and America strongly influences the African Diaspora in Latin America. Opposition to racism informs the rise of “Black Atlantic”, an imaginary political and cultural area which connects the descendants of slaves in the three continents, including the civil rights movement in the USA, the fight against apartheid in South Africa, and the revival of interest in the Caribbean and Brazil in their African roots.
Highly interesting for future research are the comparative investigations in the cultural-sciences of the spreading, particularly in Brazil, Colombia and the Caribbean, of Afro-American identities and cultural styles and their shaping of the cultural landscape. Of additional interest is the political dimension of the present re-africanization process and the question of in what respect they correspond to the requirements for acknowledgment on a national and local level? The first research results of the Afro-Brazilian literature and comparative studies on Brazil and the Caribbean have been achieved. Investigations of the connections of social movements in the area of the “Black Atlantic” are in preparation.
Linked to the thesis degrees in sociology and Latin American sciences, as well as the research of LAI historians, an inter-disciplinary project is planned to pursue the various and disparate traces of Latin America in the city. Berlin is especially suitable for such work due to the many and varied contributions of Latin Americans and research on them, including, the Ibero-American Institute, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, museums, organizations, film festivals, archives, discotheques, and prostitution. These many local sources provide opportunities to view globalization effects, the cultural dynamics of Latin America, and representations.
In addition, Berlin offers many recently accessible archives, including Federal archives, political archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the state archive of secret public records of the Prussian heritage foundation, the evangelical central archives, and company archives of AEG and Schering. To evaluate the importance of these institutes in Latin America during the period of national socialism, co-operation between LAI and Ibero-American Institute (IAI) can be arranged.
This work area is also interesting at the same time for Latin American researchers of different disciplines. Also possible is the analyses of comparative questions, for example, the importance of public and private spaces and other phenomena and representations of a globally-fragmented modernity.
Investigations of the various relations between Europe and Latin America, their perceptions of each other, as well as the main points of conflict between the USA, Latin America and the European Union also recommend inter-disciplinary explanatory approaches. In the future, the analysis of the fields of cooperation as well as in development politics (whose critical reflection “in theory and practice” has belonged for a long time to the profile of the LAI), trans-disciplinary research interrogatives, on the relation between “culture and development” as well as on the importance of the media, information and communication will be taken into account with greater emphasis. Close co-operation between the social and economic sciences is indispensable for analyzing the problems of “global governance” and the examination of global economic developments (in particular in monetary, financial and social politics) and their importance for international and national politics.
At present, a main point of research involves international cooperation for development in the Amazon zone, composed of different South American countries. Here, a lot of preliminary work has been carried out, and good connections between practice and science exist. In the next few years, research on the local aspects of global development processes among developing countries and south-south relations, in co-operation with Ethnology, will be investigated.