The Research Theme "Knowledge Production and Cultural Transfers: Latin America in Trans-regional Contexts"
The Ibero-American Institute (IAI) is home to the largest library in Europe dedicated to the Ibero-American region, collecting and preserving books and journals as well as maps, audio media, and other materials. Each year visiting scholars focusing on Latin America and the Caribbean conduct research at the IAI and avail themselves of the Institute's vast collections. From its inauguration, however, the IAI has always been more than an archive of knowledge. Through its research and cultural programming, the Institute is also a place of knowledge production, scientific exchange, and cultural translation—a laboratory for Latin American Studies across the disciplines and through the ages. At the IAI, scholars from the humanities and the social sciences concentrating on Latin American dialogue with a team of researchers that specialize in the region from different disciplinary perspectives and periods of its history. The intercultural and interdisciplinary dialogue that has developed at the Institute in recent years inspires our research theme for 2015 to 2020, "Knowledge Production and Cultural Transfers: Latin America in Trans-regional Contexts."
On the one hand, we are interested in the production of knowledge in Latin America. The research theme focuses on the critical examination of concepts as well as historical and empirical research about the role of national and international institutions as well as other actors for knowledge production in the region. Concepts such as autonomy and dependence, delimitation, appropriation, translation and adaptation, center and periphery, or colonialism of knowledge are of great importance to this topic. The effects of different social and political conditions on the establishment and development of disciplines and university curricula in Latin America, as well as the production of theoretical and empirical knowledge concerning the region in the humanities and social sciences are of particular interest.
On the other hand, we are concerned with a critical examination of the production of knowledge about Latin America in a global context. This includes the question of whether theoretical models based on experiences in Europe or the United States are applicable to an understanding of Latin American realities. We also consider the role of Latin America in the global circulation of knowledge, and raise the question of why even now the reception of knowledge produced in Latin America is confronted with so many barriers outside of the region.
With regard to the issue of cultural transfers we are concerned with the analysis of mutual intermediations as well as processes of reception, exchange, and assimilation. Cultural transfers take place both through direct contact between individuals and institutions as well as through the mediation of objects, such as artifacts, art, books, periodicals, audio, and video. The further back in time one goes, the more important and relevant diverse objects are for the understanding of processes of cultural transfer. While the concept has been used somewhat unilaterally, we are convinced that cultural transfers are complex and mutually entangled processes that span over long periods of time.
An important aim of the research theme is to foster interdisciplinary dialogues and engage different disciplinary perspectives. In this way it becomes possible to understand the similarities and differences between the disciplines with regard to periodization or the relationship between theory and practice. Whenever possible, we relate the main analytical dimensions (discourses, actors, institutions, objects) to one other. Finally, we intend to associate the research theme to a critical self-reflection on the IAI's own research on Latin America.