Is there a principled way to close the gap between many U.S. scholars, who are suspicious of any form of applied or policy-driven research, and scholars from many other parts of the world who see themselves as profoundly involved in the social transformations sweeping their own societies? Can we retain the methodological rigor of modern social science while restoring some of the prestige and energy of earlier visions of scholarship in which moral and political concerns were central? Can we find ways to legitimately engage scholarship by public intellectuals here and overseas whose work is not primarily conditioned by professional criteria of criticism and dissemination? What are the implications of the growing gap, in many societies, between institutions for technical training in the social sciences and broader traditions of social criticism and debate? Are we prepared to move beyond a model of internationalizing academic research that is mainly concerned with improving how others practice our precepts? Is there something for us to learn from colleagues in other national and cultural settings whose work is not characterized by a sharp line between social scientific and humanistic styles of inquiry?
– Arjun Appadurai, «Grassroots Globalization and the Research Imagination»
In recent years both the social sciences and development work have suffered crises of theory and practice. In particular, the parochialism of U.S. and European specialists has tended to foster a depreciation of local (usually Third World) production of knowledge and to view the Third World as a series of problems to be solved. In the age of globalization, when issues of intercultural conflicts, human development, world poverty, and cultural identity seem ever more complicated and intractable, we are faced with the urgent demand for creative approaches and new perspectives. Based on these convictions, the Casa de los Tres Mundos Foundation (C3MF), in Granada, Nicaragua, is establishing an interdisciplinary research center, the Instituto de Estudios Interdisciplinarios (IEI).
Since its establishment in 1989, the Casa de los Tres Mundos Foundation has been based on a philosophy of intercultural dialogue and exchange and the development of programs that link humanistic and social scientific endeavors. Until 1997, the work of the Casa de los Tres Mundos focused primarily cultural programming. Following the disaster of Hurricane Mitch, however, the Foundation expanded its efforts into community development, working with victims of the hurricane in the creation of a new community called Los Àngeles, located in the area of Malacatoya, a rural rice-growing area 30km north east of Granada.
The IEI is a natural outgrowth of the work of the Foundation, as it takes the practice-centered work of the Casa de los Tres Mundos and connects it to a rigorous academic environment to promote the philosophy of the Foundation and the following mission:
The IEI will operate in a geographic and cultural environment that is particularly apt to, and in special need of interdisciplinary, practice-centered research. Situated in Nicaragua, which has experienced some of the 20th century’s most significant political, social and cultural transformations and struggles and where, today, global and local changes appear in their sharpest relief, the Institute presents an ideal crossroads for meeting these challenges. The IEI will be able to relate international and national research directly to local initiatives through the Casa de los Tres Mundos’ longstanding and diverse development praxis. As such, it will channel existing but dispersed research and promote a dialogue of international significance to develop actionable solutions based on academic expertise and operational experience in the field while challenging international researchers to engage local forms of knowledge and the quotidian realities of local life.
Since its creation, the C3FM has facilitated scholarly exchange, promoted research and social advocacy workshops and conferences, and research in Nicaraguan history.
The Archivo Municipal de Granada consists of thousands of historical records that date from 1856 to 1990. Until the early 1990s, the Archivo was lay unknown and unusable in a storeroom in the municipal building of Granada. Thanks to the efforts of local and international researchers, international donors and the cooperation of the the City of Granada and the Casa de los Tres Mundos, the archive was recovered, reorganized and protected. Since 1995, the Archivo has been housed in the Casa de los Tres Mundos and is freely available for public access. The Archivo boasts a digitally-based catalog that facilitates research on topics of both local and national scope. The documentary base in the Archivo is particularly rich-containing public and private correspondence, court cases, municipal and prefectural paperwork, manuscript censuses, and more-and rivals any archive in Nicaragua. The Archivo provides a vital link to an understanding of Nicaragua’s demographic, economic, political and cultural history, all of which underpin the development of the contemporary Nicaraguan reality.
Visiting scholars, both local and international, have been working in the archive since its recovery in the early 1990s. In its initial restoration phase, the archive was restructured in cooperation with the Nicaraguan National Archive, local archive specialists and with financial support from the library of Harvard University. Since then, researchers have worked regularly in the Archivo, with investigators coming from various US and Central American universities and institutes, including UNAN (Nicaragua), UCA (Nicaragua), UCR (Costa Rica), Tulane University, the University of Iowa, Whitman College, Fordham University, and Mount Holyoke College.
Conferences and workshops have been a constant part of the Foundation’s work in Granada. In the past years, the Casa de Los Tres Mundos has organized numerous academic activities and hosted events, such as regular discussion groups, seminars and conferences, amongst them the Central American Literature Congress, the Central American Book Fair, the Encuentro de Café, various film festivals, a meeting of the Central American Ministers of Tourism, the Central American Court of Justice and a preparatory conference for the First World Congress on Communication for Development (World Bank & Government of Italy).
Idea and planning: