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03/01/2017 | Pressemitteilung

Kassel and Bielefeld Universities establish research center in Mexico

Social inequality, conflicts, ecology, identity - these are the topics to be researched by a social science center that Kassel University is setting up in Guadalajara, Mexico, together with Bielefeld University and other German universities. It is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the Maria Sybilla Merian Program.

Image: University of Kassel
Detail of the new building in Guadalajara where CALAS will be based.

With this program, the BMBF promotes exchange with scientists overseas and at the same time increases the presence of German science abroad. At the Maria Sibylla Merian Center for Advanced Latin American Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences (CALAS) at the University of Guadalajara, Mexico's second-largest city, up to 20 "fellows," i.e. international guest researchers, will work on a rotating basis starting in 2019 after a two-year start-up phase; they will be joined by doctoral students in graduate programs. CALAS branches are also planned in Costa Rica, Argentina and Ecuador, each with its own research groups.

The BMBF funding will initially run for two years in the start-up phase and comprises one million euros (of which around 400,000 euros for the University of Kassel). Assuming a positive evaluation, at least six years of operation are planned. Funding would then increase to a total of 13 million euros for eight years. In addition to the university in northern Hesse, the universities of Bielefeld, Hannover and Jena are participating on the German side. Kassel and Bielefeld will lead and control the establishment and work of CALAS.

Research will be conducted in the four clusters "Social-ecological transformation", "Social inequalities", "Violence and conflict resolution" and "Identity as structure". The focus is on strategies for solving sociopolitical crises, as Prof. Dr. Hans-Jürgen Burchardt, head of the Department of International and Inter-Societal Relations in Kassel and one of the four directors of CALAS, explains: "This applies to Latin American crises, but also to the effects of global crises. Highly exciting approaches to solutions keep coming from South and Central America, for example in matters of migration or environmental protection, from which the global North can also learn." The graduate programs are intended to "produce a young generation of well-educated and eloquent scientists" and take particular account of groups that are often disadvantaged in the Latin American science system, such as blacks, indigenous people or women. Burchardt: "We don't want to do research about Latin Americans, but with them."

The President of the University of Kassel, Prof. Dr. Reiner Finkeldey, congratulated Prof. Burchardt on obtaining the project, saying, "CALAS will noticeably increase the external impact of the University of Kassel in Latin America and at the same time give tailwind to the further internationalization of our university. And last but not least: If the work there is successful, which we firmly expect, the fellows and doctoral students there will also bring important research ideas back to Kassel."

Burchardt expects an "enormous boost" for Latin American research in Kassel in the coming years. Teaching and the training of young scientists would also benefit from exchanges, workshops or the stay of visiting scientists in Kassel.

The official project kick-off is March 1. 2017 In Kassel, two positions for initiating research will be created with BMBF funding during the two-year set-up phase. In addition to Prof. Burchardt's department, other departments from the University of Kassel are involved from the social sciences, Romance studies and the Institute for Vocational Education and Training.



Prof. Dr. Hans-Jürgen Burchardt
University of Kassel
Department of International and Inter-Societal Relations
Tel.: +49 561 804- 3253
E-Mail: magura[at]uni-kassel[dot]de

Sebastian Mense
University of Kassel
Communication, Press and Public Relations
Tel.: +49 561 804-1961
E-Mail: presse[at]uni-kassel[dot]de