Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut
Preussischer Kulturbesitz

Historical photo of textile machine

Current Projects


Immigration Guides as Source Material for Immigration History: The Example of Brazil

German immigration to the New World became a mass phenomenon in the nineteenth century. Prospective emigrants could gather information on destinations and opportunities from special societies and a variety of publications. A growing number of “immigration guides” were published from the mid-nineteenth century onward. Using Brazil as an example, our project will examine this previously neglected category of source material in order to find out what information immigrants received about countries and their inhabitants, what travel arrangements they were advised to make, and how the guides described life in German colonies.

Coordination: Dr. Ricarda Musser, Duration: 2015-2018

German Travelers to Portugal and Their Travel Accounts in the Age of Maria II (1834-1853)

Improved infrastructures caused a boom in travel activity in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe. Nonetheless, the countries of the Iberian Peninsula remained a terra incognita for quite some time. With the end of the civil war in 1834 and Queen Maria II's ascension to power, a growing number of Germans published accounts of their travels to Portugal. This project examines the individuals who traveled to Portugal in this period, why they did so, what they described, and what image of Portugal they projected to reading audiences in Germany.

Coordination: Dr. Ricarda Musser, Duration: 2015-2018

Giving focus to the Cultural Scientific and Social Dimension of EU-CELAC Relations (EULAC Focus)

EULAC-Focus is a bi-regional collaborative project seeking to reinforce a common vision between the European Union (EU) and the Community of Latin America and and Caribbean States (CELAC).During the past decade relations between the two regions were characterized by a fragmentation of political spaces and institutions as well as diverse and even diverging interests on both sides of the Atlantic. In order to regain a joint direction, the project seeks to identify contributions, potentials and challenges of the cultural, scientific and social dimension of bi-regional relations. The analysis will lead to a set of strategic recommendations.In the project 19 institutions— 9 from Europe and 10 from Latin America and the Caribbean— work closely together. The consortium encompasses not only universities and non-university research institutions; it also includes ministries of research and funding agencies as well as science-policy institutions.Thus, the main objective of the EULAC Focus project is to ‘give focus’ to EU–CELAC relations. To do so, it pays special attention to bi-regional relations between the European Union (EU) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), in three dimensions: social, scientific and cultural. Each of these dimensions is addressed in a specific thematic Working Packages (Work Package 3: social dimensions, Work Package 4: scientific dimensions; Work Package 5: cultural dimensions). These three thematic pillars are complemented by two horizontal Work Packages. While Work Package 2 analyses the cross-cutting topics: mobility, inequality, diversity, and sustainability, Work Package 6 is in charge of the vision building process.The Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut (IAI) coordinates Work Package 2: Cross Cutting Pathways. The four cross-cutting topics: mobility, inequality, diversity, and sustainability, are analysed for each thematic dimension. In addition, overlaps and interconnections among them are also explored.

Coordination: Dr. Barbara Göbel, Duration: 2016-2019

More information

Colonial Language Materials from Highland Guatemala in the Holdings of the IAI

The Ibero-American Institute in Berlin houses extensive materials on Mesoamerican languages that were collected and acquired by Walter Lehmann (1878-1939) and Eduard Seler (1849-1922). Among these materials are included several hitherto unedited original manuscripts and unique handwritten copies of colonial dictionaries and doctrinal texts. In particular the Lehmann papers still hold valuable finds, such as the recently rediscovered manuscript of the Arte y vocabulario del idioma Huasteco by Seberino Bernardo de Quirós from 1711 that had been considered lost since the early 20th century and was published in 2013.

The research objective of this project is the documentation, analysis and publication of the IAI’s colonial indigenous language materials from Highland Guatemala. Several K’iche’ and Kaqchikel dictionaries and texts will be edited and disseminated as part of a multi-year project on Highland Maya lexicography by Frauke Sachse (University of Bonn) and Michael Dürr (Free University of Berlin), which also includes collaboration by other researchers. The project falls into the field of missionary linguistics and will contribute to our general understanding of processes of colonial knowledge generation and the transfer of cultural concepts through missionary language planning.

The project will digitise the relevant manuscripts and add them to the Digital Collections of the IAI. In the following stage, the documents are made available as philologically accurate editions in book and article form. The first volume contains the edition of the “Diccionario K’iche’ de Berlín. Primera edición del Vocabulario en lengua 4iche otlatecas” (eds. Michael Dürr / Frauke Sachse), one of the most important dictionaries for colonial K’iche’. Further book projects on dictionaries and doctrinal texts will follow.

Dr Michael Dürr; Dr Frauke Sachse
Coordination at the IAI: Dr. Ulrike Mühlschlegel; Dr. Iken Paap

Duration: 2015-2018

Cultural Magazines of Latin America

In this acquisition and digitalization project, the IAI plans to acquire around 14,000 individual issues of Latin American cultural magazines from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries. As regards the acquisition of cultural magazines within the scope of the application, the institute selected countries from which it already held individual titles, most often in incomplete sets. A second criterion was that issues of these magazines had to be currently offered for sale, either in digital form, on microfilm or on paper.

In the relevant secondary literature the genre is not clearly distinguished from other periodical formats. In terms of content, cultural magazines focus on a great variety of topics. This diversity points to a broad concept of culture which in addition to the disciplines in the humanities that are oriented toward cultural studies also explicitly includes the natural sciences. This interdisciplinary approach is perhaps the most important feature of the cultural magazines published between 1880 and 1930.

The selected countries—Argentina, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Peru and Puerto Rico—reflect concrete demand from researchers and also form a balanced geographical cross-section of the IAI’s collection area. As permitted by law, the institute will digitize the periodicals using the Goobi workflow system and make them available through the relevant library reference tools.

Coordination: Dr. Ricarda Musser, Duration: 2013-2016

Latin American cultural critique

The history of Latin American cultural critique begins with the national independence of the majority of nation states on the continent in the early 19th century. According to the postcolonial situation, it aims to define the national identities of postcolonial societies and tries to achieve social and cultural modernity (modernization – modernity) according with the ideological project of the Creole literati. From the beginning, men of letters play a major role in this process because of the extraordinary importance of the lettered city during the colonial era. A bigger part of Latin American cultural critique until the end of the 1970th is based on a literary perspective. One of the most interesting problems is its creation of binary concepts which dominate the production of theories on Latin American culture(s): universalism versus regionalism; hispanoamericanism/latinoamericanism versus universalism, modernity versus tradition; the indigenous / autocthonus versus the modern/occidental; land versus city etc. It is only in the 1980th that the interests of cultural critique change to other media and artistic representation such as popular culture, handicraft, cinema, and generally the mass media. Due to the auto-representation of emerging social groups, the social and cultural function of men of letters decreases more and more, and they stop representing the “Other”. Globalization, migration, nomadism, transnational communities, strategic identities, migrant subjects and desterritorialization confront us with the need for thinking about Latin American cultural critique in a new way and using new concepts. At the same time, we have to historicize it and make it more democratic without abandoning it.

Coordination: Dr. Friedhelm Schmidt-Welle. Duration: 2017 – 2020.

Linking Spaces: Scientists, professionals and activists of German origin in South America during the 19th and 20th centuries

The processes of forming and reconfiguring fields of knowledge and spheres of action always involve two dimensions: on one hand, they are the result of a specific combination of local and/or national factors, and on the other, they are embedded within global developments and reflect transnational transferences. Based on this starting point, this project will study the activities of selected German migrants who lived in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay during the 19th and 20th centuries; these migrants make up a group of actors that is numerically quite small, yet they proved to have actively and meaningfully participated in the two aforementioned dimensions. In order to investigate this theme, the paths forged by figures of distinct types – such as scientists and academics, military advisors, engineers and technicians, political activists and entrepreneurs – will be analyzed in light of the following aspects: 1) the general context and circumstances surrounding their establishment within these three South American countries; 2) their professional and public trajectories; and 3) ‘subjective’ aspects that characterize and give order to these trajectories (resources, motivation, interests, ways of self-definition). The hypothesis that will guide this investigation is that, in addition to crossing these national and state borders, these figures also crossed the boundaries between different fields of knowledge and different spheres of action, thereby acting as articulators between spaces that are generally perceived as quite differentiated from one another.

Coordination: Dr Sandra Carreras; duration: 2016-2018

From the "Field" to the Metropolis of Knowledge

This project will investigate knowledge circulation between the "field" as a specific space of knowledge production and the city of Berlin as a historically established center for the production, exchange and archiving of knowledge from non-European regions. Using historical and recent fieldwork materials, it will seek to answer the following questions: What objects and media originate in the field with respect to the material legacies of the holistic knowledge process taking place there? How do people, objects, media and knowledge circulate between the field and the city of Berlin? How are the objects and media from the field recontextualized and reorganized in Berlin—that is, how are they divided up between the city’s different archives of knowledge (the Ibero-American Institute, Ethnology Museum, Natural History Museum, Museum of Medical History, etc.)? In addition to historical analyses concentrating on the first half of the twentieth century, the project will examine the role that knowledge circulation plays for archives of knowledge today. In so doing, it will shed light on the manner in which new forms and paths of knowledge, as well as differently structured relations between the center and periphery, affect archives of knowledge today. This project is related to the Cluster of Excellence "Image Knowledge Gestaltung. An Interdisciplinary Laboratory" of the Universität Humboldt, where I am involved in several projects.

Coordination: Dr Barbara Göbel


Dzehkabtun Archaeological Project

Dzehkabtun is an archaeological site of the Early to Terminal Classic Periods of Mayan Culture, located in the northern part of Campeche, Mexico. It first became known to the academic world during Teobert Maler’s 1887 visit, when he photographed and also made maps and descriptions of several buildings and monuments in the centre of the settlement.

The current archaeological project at Dzehkabtun is based on a preliminary investigation which was conducted in 2008 by a team from the University of Bonn under the direction of Dr. Iken Paap. During the 2008 survey, the site's centre was mapped, and it turned out that Dzehkabtun had been much bigger and architecturally more diverse than had been previously assumed: among other traits, whole patio groups seem to have been modified by large-scale building activities during the Terminal Classic. These late structures differ in some aspects of their construction and their spatial concept from the 'c-shaped structures' of the neighbouring Puuc zone.

Part of these structures have been excavated this year in order to answer questions about the continuity or disruption from Late to Terminal Classic times, the socio-political structure and the reasons for the abandonment of the classic centres of the central Yucatan Peninsula into a broad regional context. In addition (and as a base for further research) the mapping of the settlement will be continued.

Funding: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Sachbeihilfe).

3rd project phase, 2016-2018.

Coordination: Dr. Iken Paap

Project website:


Latin American Foreign Policies in Comparative Perspective

The central objective of this project is to analyze the foreign policies of eight Latin American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela) since the end of the Cold War. The aim of the project is to identify the main internal and external variables that offer explanations for the distinct national strategies of international insertion. The study focuses especially on the relationships of these countries with their respective neighbouring countries and on attitudes towards the processes of regional cooperation and integration.

Coordination: Dr Peter Birle; Duration: 2009-2018

Literary Representations of Memory: Juan Rulfo and Julio Llamazares

Within the last 25 years, “memory” has not only turned into a transversal theme in cultural studies, but also in medical science, biology, and clinical psychology. These disciplines are usually classified as neuroscience. The objective of neuroscience is to analyse the functions of the human brain. Its main focus lies on brain damage, ranging from constraints on the capacity of the individual to remember up to the temporary or entire loss of the autobiographical (episodic) memory. At the same time, research on the collective or the cultural memory has been promoted by cultural studies. As in empirical neuroscience, nowadays cultural studies consider episodic memory to be a process of permanent (re-)construction. Up to now, in Spanish-speaking countries, studies on post-dictatorial memory are shaped by the research on memory in cultural studies. Memory itself is mainly studied in the context of historic traumata. Our interdisciplinary research project, however, will analyse the literary representation of individual as well as collective memory by taking into account the research results from neuroscience and cultural studies. The project includes the critique of the construction and the functionalization of the past in literature. In the first phase of the project (2011 to 2013), we will analyse the literary representation of memory in the prose of Mexican writer Juan Rulfo and Spanish writer Julio Llamazares. Memory is an essential theme and a stimulant of the narrative process in the texts of both authors. The aim is to analyse the inscription of literary memory into the collective memory and, at the same time, its dissociation from official memory as it becomes manifest in anniversaries, monuments, historiography, etc. In 2012, we published the interdisciplinary volume "Culturas de la memoria. Teoría, historia y praxis simbólica".

Coordination: Dr Friedhelm Schmidt-Welle; duration: 2011-2017

Socio-ecological Inequalities in Latina America

The Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung BMBF (Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany) funds the research network “Interdependent inequalities in Latin America - desiguAldades.net". The objective of the international and interdisciplinary research network, whose spokespeople are Dr Barbara Göbel (Ibero-American Institute) and Prof Dr Marianne Braig and Prof Dr Sérgio Costa (Lateinamerika-Institut, Freie Universität Berlin), is to analyze social inequalities in Latin America, which are characterized by increasing global interdependences. One of the four research dimensions of the network analyzes socio-ecological inequalities. It is coordinated by Barbara Göbel (Ibero-American Institute) and Dr Imme Scholz (Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik, DIE, Bonn). Key interests of the research dimension are environmental conflicts, unequal access to natural resources and the unequal distribution of environmental costs and environmental risks. In addition, knowledge asymmetries are being studied. Two main thematic foci are trans-regional interdependencies and the local social, economic and political impacts of agri-business (e.g. the cultivation of soybeans, forestry) and mining. As part of the latter focus, Barbara Göbel is developing the project "Transnational Mining and socio-ecological inequalities: the use of lithium in the Puna de Atacama".

Coordination: Dr Barbara Göbel; duration: 2009-2013

Environment, Worldview and Resource Utilization in the Andean Highlands of Northwestern Argentina

This project will examine the way economic strategies are codetermined by culturally specific environmental perceptions, religious ideas and social interactions. Its goal is a more precise understanding of the complex links between interest, knowledge (attitudes, risk perception, information, conventions) and action. Furthermore, the intercultural comparison of the environmental conceptualizations and risk perceptions held by the indigenous residents of the highlands and representatives of state, church and political organizations will open the way for a deeper understanding of the way environmental knowledge changes in multiple cultural interaction contexts and in various power constellations. The project is based on several ethnographic field studies in northwestern Argentina and northern Chile and on extensive archival work in Argentina, Chile and Bolivia. A monograph is in preparation.

Coordination: Dr Barbara Göbel

2017 || Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut Preussischer Kulturbesitz