Maria Sibylla Merian Centres

The Federal Research Ministry is driving forward the internationalization of the humanities, cultural and social sciences through its international research centres, the Maria Sibylla Merian Centres for Advanced Studies.

© BMBF / Friedrich Pleul

To this end, research centres are being supported in regions and partner countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa that are important in terms of science and research policy. At these centres, groups of scientists from Germany, the host countries and other countries in the regions work together to research one self-chosen key issue from various different perspectives, regularly inviting German and international fellows to visit their centre.

The Merian Centres are located within scientific institutions in the host country and are set up and operated by German research institutions in partnership with the respective host institution. Research centres of this kind have already been set up in India, Mexico, Brazil and Ghana. Another research centre is currently being planned in North Africa, Jordan or Lebanon. The Merian Centres lay the foundations for long-term cooperation with the respective partner regions in the humanities and social sciences. They offer intercultural insights, helping us to better understand societal developments and to develop potential solutions for current social problems. In this context, the humanities and social sciences are more important than ever before as well as partnerships that enable international and interdisciplinary research.

More information about the individual Merian Centres:


Opened in 2015, the M.S. Merian R. Tagore Centre in Delhi was the first centre for advanced studies in the humanities and social sciences outside of Europe to be funded by the Federal Research Ministry. During a preparatory phase, researchers from the Universities of Erfurt, Göttingen and Würzburg as well as from the German Historical Institute London worked together with their colleagues from India to establish the research centre that focusses on the “Metamorphoses of the Political”.

The history of the Indian sub-continent provides extensive material for research, looking at how ‘the political’ is expressed in arenas that transcend the nation state and covers more and more areas of society. Considering this history from comparative perspectives serves to expand the empirical basis of current debate surrounding ‘the political’, which has predominantly focussed on North Atlantic communities up to now. The academic priorities of the Merian Centre revolve around the political aspects of writing history, industrial relations, movements calling for the renewal of democratic systems, normative conflicts, gender relations and growth and distribution.

More information is available on the Centre’s homepage.


In Mexico, at the centre hosted by the University of Guadalajara, researchers take an interdisciplinary approach to addressing questions of how social crises are perceived and reflected by stakeholders from the spheres of politics, industry and culture. What answers arise to dealing with different societal challenges and problems? What might new approaches to problem solving look like – including at an international level – and how can these be put into practice? Answers to these questions will also be included in a database of conflict resolution strategies. This can be used as a basis for developing potential solutions to social crises in Germany and Europe. The research centre is a joint project run by the Universities of Bielefeld, Kassel, Hanover and Jena and is not only aimed at research groups at its main site in Guadalajara, but also at sites in Buenos Aires (National University of San Martín), Quito (Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences) and San José (University of Costa Rica).

More information is available on the Centre’s homepage and in this interview with the director.

São Paulo

The centre at the renowned University of São Paulo and the Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning (CEBRAP) opened in spring 2017. Here, past and present forms of conviviality are studied from a wide variety of disciplinary perspectives ranging from economics and law to sociology, history and ethnography all the way to literature studies. How can conviviality succeed in spite of extreme disparities in income levels and in spite of cultural and religious diversity? How are these forms of social inequality linked to gender inequality? Work is done at the centre to investigate these questions from a Latin American perspective, obtaining new insights into the question of social cohesion, which is also a topical issue for European countries. On the German side, the Free University Berlin, the University of Cologne and the Ibero-American Institute (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) are involved in the centre. Their work is based at the centre’s main site in Brazil in close collaboration with the University of La Plata in Argentina and El Colegio de México.


Since early 2018, the research centre at the University of Ghana – one of the best universities in Africa – has been dedicated to the study of democratic governance, conflict management and sustainable environmental transformation. Its focus is on pressing research questions such as what are the specific characteristics of African societies in which democratic structures exist? Why are countries in Sub-Saharan Africa in particular confronted with protracted violent conflicts? What effects do these have on the movements of refugees and migrants? The centre is partnered with the German Universities of Freiburg, Frankfurt am Main and Constance as well as the GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies and the German Historical Institute Paris, part of the Max Weber Foundation.

More information is available on the Centre’s homepage.