Spacial Entanglements in Latin America in a Global Context

The construction of spatial and cultural delimitations and entanglement is connected to the establishment of certain knowledge over others and the circulation of knowledge between spaces and cultures. The aim of the project presented here is to observe such interrelations between space and knowledge from a specific perspective outside Europe: Latin America. The reason for forming this research project within the inter-institutional research group "Circulation of Knowledge" lies in the potentials that would come from a better use of the unique Latin America knowledge landscape in Berlin. These would not only effectuate synergy effects between the activities of different academic or non-academic institutions. The planned project would also be a requirement, in order to profile the more classical Area Studies by exploring transnational and transcultural relations. Inasmuch, it is not about establishing a new Latin America unit, but about gaining new knowledge on the interwovenness of spatial construction and knowledge processes, and, with that, overcoming the limitations of Eurocentric concepts of knowledge and academic disciplines. By observing Latin America as a multifariously entangled space, as a laboratory of modernity and a generator of knowledge, we will attempt to both "provincialize Europe" (Chakrabarty) and to pluralize the perspectives of knowledge circulation.

The "discovery of America" in 1492 and the development of the modern age in Europe led to close, modern international relations and transcultural entanglements between the Latin American continent and Europe. This is associated with envisioning the "New World" as strange and exotic, but also as a part of the occident or the western hemisphere. The Eurocentric perspective largely overlooks entanglements with other regions and cultures via migration processes from the Arabic world, Asia, and the slave trade with Africa, etc. These processes are not limited to the coloniali-zation phase; Latin America (or individual Latin American regions) has always been a stage for accelerating globalization.

The interest in Latin America also has a sociology of knowledge dimension. An interdisciplinary approach to the object of research is necessary when exploring transcultural entanglement in order to overcome the context of relatively established space-culture-relations, such as European nation states. It is essential to begin dividing the workload between the modern social sciences and  sections like Ancient American Studies, Ethnology, or Latin America Studies that deal with the "other," which is often factored out by the disciplines. The project will approach the issue of entangled spaces, knowledge movement and hemispheric constructions from three research aspects:

  1. Knowledge transfer, knowledge circulation, and knowledge presentation
    At various Berlin institutions, there are different research projects already being carried out, which investigate knowledge movement, and which complement one another from their main points of focus and work on transnational or cultural questions. Within the framework of the planned project, these activities should be brought more closely together and placed within a context of regional entanglement, which stretches beyond Latin America.
  2. Memory cultures in transregional comparison
    The subject of "memory cultures" has also been taken up in the past few years by scholars from different Berlin institutions. The issue of memory beyond the "nation" (and national memorials) gains significance in context with the last decades' accelerating globalization, which in Latin America coincides with the end of the military dictatorships of the 1980s and 1990s.
  3. Public and private spheres in transnational spaces
    The border zone that has developed in and between the USA and Mexico lends itself to an intense examination of the last decade's accelerated globalization process. The political community this has produced, and the new relations between territory and the associated political realm (such as "New Intermestics"), can be examined in different subprojects from multi-disciplinary perspectives. The activities undertaken by LAI and SWP in this respect will be used more intensely in the future when analyzing other border zones. The political and social protagonists (like representative political parties, social movements, and local communities) cultivate a transnational political public and subsequently alter national political processes. It is no longer possible to understand these border crossings in context with the traditional political science discipline (between international, national, and interstate politics). For this reason, a joint project will examine these kinds of translocal entanglements and transnationally active protagonist networks between different sites (for example neighborhoods in Chicago, Mexican rural village communities, or between border towns). Two questions are of central significance here. How can political organizations and state sovereignty be changed by transborder migration and knowledge exchange? What role do social mobilization and political lobbying play in entangling distant places and in creating interconnected, local communities?