Degree completed in 2017.

Foreign Direct Investment in the Russian Agrarian Sector

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Academic Profile

Chris finished his DPhil at the School of Geography and the Environment in 2017. 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 consists of four academic papers, two of which have been published in the Journal of Peasant Studies in 2017, and Problems of Post-Communism in 2018, with a further forthcoming in Europe-Asia Studies in 2019.

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

Chris' thesis investigated the experiences of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the agricultural sector of the Russian Federation. The focus was on the form of FDI, and how each investor responded, and adapted, to the Russian operational environment. This was achieved through extensive qualitative, and multiple methods research on three manifestations of FDI: corporate, privately-funded investment; corporate, publically-funded investment; and smaller, individual private investment.

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, published in the Journal of Peasant Studies, utilises a qualitative narrative analysis approach to examine smaller foreign investors operating within the Russian agricultural sector as private farmers. The investors were aligned along a performance and narrative spectrum, and the construction of their identities - guided by their adaptive processes on the 'Turnerian' frontier - were found to shape their business conduct, and interactions with labour forces and regional authorities. Negative prejudgment of the labour force existed amongst the investors - with associated negative notions of trust, inefficiency, laziness, morality, and sexual deviancy - and they were involved in explicit or ambiguous forms of gift-gifting, drawing parallels to Soviet blat behaviour. This paper concludes that despite efforts to construct identity, the narratives of the investors betrayed themselves in certain aspects, with elements of 'undoing' in the identity process.

The fourth paper, a collaborative piece of research forthcoming in Europe-Asia Studies, looks to identify the 'external' factors that have impacted upon the decisions of three 'flagship' foreign agroholdings - Agrokultura, Agromino, and Black Earth Farming (BEF) - to either partially or wholly divest, or dismantle their operations. Explaining 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 tutored undergraduate students in the School of Geography and the Environment between 2014-2016 on Russian agriculture in the global economy. From 2016-2017, he also tutored American and Indian exchange undergraduates for the Oxford Programme for Undergraduate Studies (OPUS) on food, geopolitics, and the environment.

Publications

  • View Dr Chris Lander's ORCID profile

Journal Articles

Conference presentations

  • Finance, Food and Farmland Conference, the International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, Netherlands, 25th January 2014
  • Oxford Food Security Forum, St Antony's College, University of Oxford, UK, 4th May 2014
  • Farmland, Food and Forests in Transition: The Eurasian countryside 25 years after, Romanian Academy of Sciences, Bucharest, Romania, 7th November 2014
  • Regimes and Societies in Conflict: Eastern Europe and Russia since 1956, Uppsala-BASEES Conference, Sweden, 13th-14th September 2018