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Latin America & the Caribbean

Example Image for the research topic Latin America & the Caribbean
Foto: Lena Schick


The Department’s regional focus reflects a long-standing historical connection between Marburg and Latin America. In 1557, the first German-language travel description of the newly discovered continent – written by Hans Staden – was published in Marburg. Karl von den Steinen, who undertook several expeditions to Brazil between 1884 and 1888, became an adjunct professor (Privatdozent) of Anthropology in 1890. Leonhard Schulze-Jena, who worked in Marburg from 1913 to 1937, published groundbreaking studies on the linguistics and anthropology of Central America. The Ethnographic Collections hold the extensive estate of Theodor Koch-Grünberg (1872-1924), an important early student of Amazonian Indians, who was born in the town of Grünberg in the vicinity of Marburg. After World War II, as Anthropology became institutionalized at Marburg University, the research focus on Latin America was expanded further.

Horst Nachtigall’s (chair from 1963 to 1989) studies focused mostly the Andean area and Mesoamerica. Mark Münzel (chair from 1989 to 2008) and Ernst Halbmayer (chair since 2008) expanded the focus to the Amazon region and the Caribbean.

Its cultural diversity has made Latin America an extremely interesting field for anthropological research. The contemporary heterogeneity of Latin America’s population that is comprised of Indigenous and Afro-American minorities and a Mestizo majority is the result of the continent’s violent and destructive European colonization. The comparatively early independence and decolonization of Latin American countries set political, social, and economic processes in motion that resulted in unique social phenomena. Cultural relations among local populations differ substantially between Mesoamerica and the Andean region, between the Caribbean, Amazonia, and Patagonia, as well as between rural areas and urban metropolises like Mexico City or Sao Paulo. In contrast to disciplines like Ancient American Studies (Altamerikanistik) that focus their attention to the reconstruction of the development of the historical Latin American high cultures, the Department undertakes ethnographic research on current, contemporary issues and problems. Currently such research focuses especially on the Amazon region (Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela), but also on Mexico, Guatemala, and Cuba. Ongoing projects reflect the Department’s foci on the environment, conflict, and Indigenous and Afro-American cultures.


Research Projects