Foreign Direct Investment in the Russian Agrarian Sector

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Academic Profile

Chris is currently a DPhil student at the School of Geography and the Environment. Before studying at Oxford, he gained two masters degrees from the University of Birmingham: a MEng in Chemical Engineering in 2007; and a MSc in Enterprise, Environment and Place (an ESRC recognised human geography degree) in 2010. Chris was awarded a place on the Alfa Fellowship Program in 2013, and was abroad in Moscow, Russia for the 2013-2014 academic year.

The Alfa Fellowship Program is a distinguished international initiative that each year offers up to 15 accomplished young Americans and Britons the opportunity to complete a high-level professional development program in Russia. Over the course of the program, Chris was able to: continue his DPhil research on foreign enterprises in Russia; attend professional seminars at the Higher School of Economics, Moscow; receive further language training; attend meetings at the Russian Embassy in Washington DC, the UK and American Embassies in Moscow, and the British Consulate in St. Petersburg; and visit organisations such as the World Trade Organisation, RT News Agency, and Alfa Bank.

Further, during his first year at Oxford, Chris achieved the Oxford University Programme in Languages (OPAL) Basic Level in Russian. Chris' thesis will consist of four academic papers, the first of which was published in Problems of Post-Communism in 2016.

Other Affiliations

  • Chris is a member of Christ Church, Oxford
  • He has held various positions on the Christ Church Graduate Common Committee, including Male Welfare Representative
  • Chris enrolled on the Oxford University Peer Support Programme, and became a Peer Supporter in 2013, enabling him to offer emotional support to other students under the University's welfare structure

Current Research

The overarching aim of the Chris' research is to locate the role of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Russia's re-emergence as a major player in the global cereal economy, through a thesis consisting of four academic papers.

The first paper, published in Problems of Post-Communism, looks to identify the well-known criticisms made in the literature of agro-food corporations, and examine their relevance in the case of Cargill, one of the global four 'ABCD' traders. The findings indicate that Cargill has modified its operations according to the unique and peculiar political and economic environment of Russia, and that its actions are mediated by country and cultural processes, resulting in variance in the way that the company's business is conducted compared to elsewhere in the world. This paper posits a 'third school' of competing discourse pervasive amongst employees of Cargill surrounding the cause of global food price volatility, and supports the notion that 'distancing' has made it difficult to observe the connections between financial actors and the food system.

Continuing the study of corporate foreign investors, the second paper - again focusing on Cargill - discusses how political risk, geopolitical crises, bureaucracy, and interaction with the Russian regional governments, inform geopolitical imagination and neo-colonial assumption in business. The interviews were conducted in Russia as the Ukraine crisis developed, which resulted in the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation; this allowed for some unique research in business at a time of major geopolitical uncertainty.

The third paper draws attention to smaller foreign investors in the Russian agricultural sector operating as private farmers. The research shows that pervasive amongst smaller investor archetypes are: adverse business attitudes, such as cultural preconception, xenophobia, and neo-colonial assertiveness; the adoption of a 'Turnerian frontier' mentality; prejudgment of the labour force, with the associated negative notions of trust, inefficiency, laziness, morality, and sexual deviancy; and explicit or ambiguous forms of gift-gifting that draw parallels with Soviet blat behaviour.

The fourth paper is a collaborative piece of research that looks at the larger foreign 'pure-play' agroholdings in Russia. Covering the companies' adverse experiences of operating in Russia, and the troubles that they have had with regional authorities, this paper also details the actions that these companies took during the geopolitical crisis surrounding Crimea, and how they have adjusted to the post-sanction environment and turmoil between Russia and the West.

Teaching

Chris has tutored undergraduate students in the School of Geography and the Environment since 2014 on Russian agriculture in the global economy. In 2016, he tutored American exchange undergraduates for the Oxford Programme for Undergraduate Studies (OPUS) on food, geopolitics, and the environment.