Starting maybe with the work of Herbert Eugene Bolton (e.g. History of the Americas [1926] and Wider Horizons of American History [1939]), there has been a desire in numerous academic disciplines to supplement national(ist) perspectives with transnational ones and to complement studies on interconnections between the New World and the Old World with projects that focus on interconnections within the Americas. This kind of Inter-American perspective was the founding principle of a research group on “E Pluribus Unum?—Ethnic Identies in Transnational Integration Processes in the Americas,” which was established at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Bielefeld (Germany) in 2008. The research group focused on identity politics in North, Central, and South America. Twenty-two Latin American, North American and European scholars from the fields of cultural and literary studies, media and film studies, linguistics, sociology, anthropology, history, religion, and legal studies collaborated for one year on a variety of projects that analyze constructions and uses of ethnic/cultural/national identities, interculturalism, and transnationalism in the Americas.

The concluding conference of this research group also served as the founding conference of the International Association of Inter-American Studies. Attended by about 80 scholars from the Americas, Europe, and Asia, the conference dealt with “Multiculturalism and Beyond: Identity Politics, Cultural Difference, and Hybridity in the Americas.” On July 23, 2009, following an interdisciplinary roundtable discussion on “Perspectives of Inter-American Studies,” 51 founding members of the International Association of Inter-American Studies ratified the Association’s constitution and elected its first executive and advisory boards. It was decided by unanimous vote that the principal aim of the Association “shall be the promotion of interdisciplinary and transnational research” on the Americas. Specific goals set by the constitutive assembly are:

  • promoting interest in inter-American Studies,
  • establishing networks of researchers, institutions, and projects,
  • organizing conferences and other events,
  • promoting academic exchange and the publication of research findings,
  • facilitating the entry of young scholars into the profession,
  • establishing and intensifying contacts with other academic associations.

The Association’s activities are to be conducted in English and/or Spanish.

The constitutive assembly further decided to hold the Association’s biennial conferences such that they alternate with those of the International American Studies Association (IASA) . The Association’s first biennial conference is scheduled to take place in Essen (Germany) in 2010, the second in Guadalajara (Mexico) in 2012.