New Merian Centre not just on but also in Latin America
Bielefeld University and University of Kassel head major academic policy project with up to 20 million Euros of funding
A new research centre with its headquarters in Guadalajara, Mexico will be studying how Latin American societies solve crises. Bielefeld University and the University of Kassel are setting up the second Merian Centre in the world in cooperation with the University of Hannover and the University of Jena. The University of Guadalajara’s inspiration when founding the institute comes from Bielefeld University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF). The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will be funding each Merian Centre for up to twelve years with up to 20 million Euros. This makes the new centre the most highly funded research project on Latin America currently being sponsored by Germany.
For the Latin American centre CALAS, the main location in Guadalajara will be supplemented by regional centres in Argentina, Ecuador, and Costa Rica. The historian Professor Dr. Olaf Kaltmeier from Bielefeld University’s Center for InterAmerican Studies (CIAS) is the Director of CALAS and the Speaker for the German university consortium: ‘This project places Bielefeld University among the forerunners in both German and international research on the Americas.’
The main research approach at CALAS is to address social crises from four perspectives: ‘socio-ecological transformation’, ‘social inequalities’, ‘violence and conflict resolution’, and ‘identity and region’. ‘We want to learn from the world region of Latin America and find out how they master crises,’ says Kaltmeier. Starting in 2019, changing groups of up to twenty ‘Fellows’ (i.e. international guest scientists) should work in research groups and there should also be doctoral students in graduate programmes.
Bielefeld University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF) was also involved in the proposal to set up CALAS. ‘ZiF is a strong inspiration for CALAS,’ says Kaltmeier. Founded in 1968 as a ‘nucleus’ of Bielefeld University, it promotes outstanding interdisciplinary and innovative research projects. Professor Dr. Héctor Raúl Solis Gadea, Rector of the University of Guadalajara came to the ZiF in 2016 together with an architect. The designated Mexican directors of the Centre, Professor Dr. Sarah Corona and Professor Dr. Gerado Cham, both attended the ZiF as guest scientists.
‘At CALAS, we are using and expanding the ZiF principle of temporary research groups,’ says Kaltmeier. As at the ZiF, academics will be able to submit a proposal to CALAS for a research group to study a particular topic. If the proposal is accepted, then the Fellows of the group will spend one year living and working together at CALAS. They will invite other academics to conferences, produce joint publications, and disseminate their findings in lectures and discussions. ‘The CALAS regional centres will also enable the Fellows to work in their archives and, for example, to survey people in the respective country,’ says Kaltmeier.
The BMBF is initially funding the two-year preliminary phase. The plan is then to fund CALAS for a further maximum of ten years (a six-year main phase and a four-year final phase). For the first eight years alone, funding will run to 13 million Euros.
Just like Bielefeld University, the University of Guadalajara is also extending and modernizing its campus. The new quarter includes not only buildings for the social sciences and the humanities, including CALAS, but also theatres and museums. With 4.5 million residents, Guadalajara is the second largest city in Mexico. It also hosts the second largest book fair in the world making it an international centre of culture. The University of Guadalajara has had close ties with Bielefeld University for more than ten years including an exchange programme for teachers and students funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).
Bielefeld University has specialized in studying North and South America from the perspective of the social sciences and cultural studies and it founded the Center for InterAmerican Studies (CIAS) in 2011. One CIAS project is entitled ‘The Americas as space of entanglement’. This project is being funded by the BMBF until the end of 2019, and is studying the historical and social ties between North and South America and how they influence each other. From 2008 to 2009, the ZiF research group ‘E Pluribus Unum’ analysed ethnic identities in the Americas and how these forge ties across borders. Olaf Kaltmeier was one of the organizers of this group.
Further information is available online at:
- BMBF funds two new research colleges in Latin America [in German]: https://www.bmbf.de/de/bmbf-foerdert-zwei-neue-forschungskollegs-in-lateinamerika-3916.html
- Bielefeld University and the University of Kassel are setting up research centre in Mexico [in German]: http://www.uni-kassel.de/uni/universitaet/pressekommunikation/neues-vom-campus/meldung/article/universitaeten-kassel-und-bielefeld-bauen-forschungszentrum-in-mexiko-auf.html
- University of Guadalajara to host Centre for advanced studies on Latin America [in Spanish]: udg.edu.mx/es/noticia/udeg-albergara-centro-de-estudios-avanzados-de-america-latina
- Center for InterAmerican Studies: http://www.uni-bielefeld.de/%28en%29/cias/index.html
Prof. Dr. Olaf Kaltmeier, Bielefeld University
Faculty of History, Philosophy, and Theology
Telephone: +49 521 106-3216