Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut
Preussischer Kulturbesitz

Historical photo of textile machine

Current Projects


Achaeological Project Santa Rosa Xtampak: Chronology and regional/interregional networks of a Classic Maya City (Campeche/Mexico)

Since 2018, survey and excavation work has been carried out in the monumental center of the Classic Mayal site of Santa Rosa Xtampak (Campeche), 2020-2022 with funding from the Bundesbeauftragte für Kultur und Medien - BKM (see: cocludeded third-party funded projects). Another excavation campaign is planned for 2023.

Coordination: Dr. Iken Paap (IAI), Dr. Antonio Benavides Castillo (Centro INAH Campeche)
Duration: 2018 - 2024

Colonial Language Materials from Mesoamerica 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: Phase 1: 2015-2018; phase 2: 2019-2024

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: 2016-2023

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


Foreign Policies and Regionalism in Latin America

The project analyzes how regional interstate cooperation and integration processes in Latin America are influenced by the foreign policy strategies of the countries involved, and what possibilities and limits arise for Latin American regionalism as a result. The strategies of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela are analyzed in a comparative perspective.

Researcher: Dr. Peter Birle; Duration: 2019-2022

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

2021 || Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut Preussischer Kulturbesitz