The Center for InterAmerican Studies (CIAS) emerged in 2011 out of the interdisciplinary teaching and research network of Inter-American Studies, founded in 2002, and Bielefeld University’s defining focus on "Latin American Studies". CIAS is a cross-faculty institution of the Departments of History, Philosophy and Theology and the Faculty of Linguistics and Literature. Its membership includes researchers and scholars of history, sociology, political science, theology, Latin American studies, American studies, literature studies, linguistics, cultural studies and media studies at Bielefeld University and the faculty of sociology at the University of Applied Sciences Bielefeld.
The foundation of CIAS reflects the fact that regional studies are increasingly confronted with interregional and intercontinental problem areas and issues by way of the various dynamics of globalization. More than in any other region in the world, America's cultural, social and political differences collide between the post-industrial world, as well as "emerging" and "developing" countries. Despite the obvious geopolitical differences between North America and the Caribbean, societies in the Western Hemisphere are nevertheless characterized by a common history of European colonization and slavery which continues to produce underlying postcolonial structures within these communities. Thus CIAS is a member of traditional associations in regional studies like the Association of German-Latin America Research (ADLAF). Beyond this, it works alongside other organizations toward the institutionalization of area studies in German research and engages in the new orientation of regionally conceived research associations such as CrossArea, of which CIAS is one of the founding members.
CIAS has, accordingly, focused its work on the comparative and transregional research on interculturality, identity politics and coloniality; cultural policy and mediality, social movements, integration and social transformation, migration and transnationalism dynamics in the Americas, which is reflected in its numerous research projects. Starting in 2013, the research activities of CIAS have been linked with the project, “The Americas as Space of Entanglement(s)”, funded by the BMBF.
In its teaching, CIAS supports an interdisciplinary and inter-regional perspective in area studies, thus accommodating the recent demands for transnationalization in the cultural and social sciences that arise in the context of current globalization processes. In the area of postgraduate studies, CIAS offers an independent interdisciplinary master program in “Inter-American Studies” In the field of doctoral research there is, in addition to independent research, integration within the International Postgraduate Forum (IPF), the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Religion and Society (CIRRuS) as well as the Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology and the literature and linguistics faculty . We have also established the minor “History and Culture of Latin America” within the Bachelor degree system.
The CIAS offers a research colloquium on Inter-American Studies during each semester, which is open to everyone. CIAS also arranges events such as meetings, conferences, and summer school programs.
A central publication of the CIAS is the e-Journal FIAR: Forum for Inter-American Research. Furthermore, the institute is involved in publishing in various publications, some of which appear in the series IAS Inter-American Studies / Estudios Interamericanos.
A further focus of CIAS’ work is in the area of international networking. Thus, the management of the International Association of Inter-American Studies is based at Bielefeld University hand in hand with numerous cooperation agreements with universities and research institutions throughout the Americas.