Dr. Oliveira publishes a special issue of the Canadian Journal of Development Studies

Authoritarianism, Populism, Nationalism and Resistance in the Agrarian South

Dr. Oliveira’s article “Authoritarianism, Populism, Nationalism and Resistance in the Agrarian South” has just been published as the guest editor’s introduction to a special issue the Canadian Journal of Development Studies.

The article is co-authored with Ben McKay and Juan Liu, who also co-edited the special issue.

ABSTRACT: This special section contributes to the vibrant debates concerning the “new political moment” underway with regards to “authoritarian populism” and nationalism in the agrarian South. With neoliberal globalisation in crisis, nationalist-populist and authoritarian movements are gaining ground, often transforming state and class configurations in ways that appease landed, agro-industrial and political elites, while simultaneously seeking to neutralise forms of resistance. Rather than starting from an ambiguous concept that submerges these class conflicts and contradictions, we argue that re-centering class struggles that frame the new political moment offers a more useful framework for understanding agrarian transformation in the contemporary period.

KEYWORDS: Authoritarianism, populism, nationalism, resistance, agrarian change


The Canadian Journal of Development Studies is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary, bilingual (English and French) forum for critical research and reflection on the complex problems of international development theory, policy and practice. Founded in 1980, the CJDS remains the only Canadian scholarly journal devoted exclusively to the study of international development. It is published quarterly by the Canadian Association for the Study of International Development.

For the full-length article, see: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02255189.2020.1814707 

Dr. Oliveira published in Applied Geography

Global-local interactions in agrochemical industry: Relating trade regulations in Brazil to environmental and spatial restructuring in China

Dr. Oliveira’s article “Global-local interactions in agrochemical industry: Relating trade regulations in Brazil to environmental and spatial restructuring in China“, co-authored with He Canfei and Ma Jiahui, has just been published in Applied Geography.


China and Brazil are the world’s leading exporter and importer of agrochemicals respectively. We combine quantitative and qualitative methods to analyze global-local interactions in the spatial restructuring of China’s agrochemical industry in relation to a 2006 agrochemical import-acceleration policy in Brazil. We synthesize global political ecology and evolutionary economic geography (EEG) research on environmental regulations, technological upgrading, and the spatial transformations of China’s pollution-intensive industries, discussing arguments that the Pollution Haven Hypothesis (PHH) and Porter Hypothesis (PH) co-exist due to firm heterogeneity. While existing studies conceptualize heterogeneity in terms of firm size, regional hub (cluster) effect, and local government intervention, this study adds global-local interactions as dimension of firm heterogeneity – distinguishing firms with weak and strong international linkages. We show the import-acceleration policy in Brazil contributed to the de-concentration of agrochemical production towards western China (confirming the PHH). Yet increasingly strict environmental regulations in China curtailed de-concentration after 2010, when well-established firms and new entrants with strong international linkages consolidated exports to Brazil, while new firms with weaker international linkages exited this market (confirming the PH). This co-existence of PHH and PH due to firm-level heterogeneity of global-local interactions illustrates a theoretical synthesis we call an evolutionary political economic geography (EPEG).

Keywords: Evolutionary economic geography; Global political ecology; Global-local interactions; Pollution haven hypothesis; Porter hypothesis; Chemical industry

Applied Geography is a journal devoted to the publication of research which utilizes geographic approaches (human, physical, nature-society and GIScience) to resolve human problems that have a spatial dimension. These problems may be related to the assessment, management and allocation of the world’s physical and/or human resources. The underlying rationale of the journal is that only through a clear understanding of the relevant societal, physical, and coupled natural-humans systems can we resolve such problems. The journal was founded in 1980, and consistently ranks among the top journals of geography, planning, development studies, and environmental science.

For the full length article, see: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeog.2020.102244


Dr. Oliveira publishes a special issue of Political Geography

China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Views from the Ground

Dr. Oliveira’s article “China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Views from the Ground” has just been published as the guest editor’s introduction to a special issue Political Geography.

The article is co-authored with Galen Murton, Alessandro Rippa, Tyler Harlan, and Yang Yang, who also co-edited the special issue.


ABSTRACT: The Chinese government promotes the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a global strategy for regional integration and infrastructure investment. With a projected US$1 trillion commitment from Chinese financial institutions, and at least 138 countries participating, the BRI is attracting intense debate. Yet most analysis to date focuses on broad drivers, risks, and opportunities, largely considered to be emanating from a coherent policy imposed by Beijing. In this special issue, we instead examine the BRI as a relational, contested process – a bundle of intertwined discourses, policies, and projects that sometimes align but are sometimes contradictory. We move beyond policy-level, macro-economic, and classic geopolitical analysis to study China’s global investments “from the ground”. Our case studies reveal the BRI to be dynamic and unstable, rhetorically appropriated for different purposes that sometimes but do not always coalesce as a coherent geopolitical and geoeconomic strategy. The papers in this special issue provide one of the first collections of deep empirical work on the BRI and a useful approach for grounding China’s role in globalization in the critical contexts of complex local realities.

KEYWORDS: China, Belt and Road Initiative, political geography, globalization, theory and methods, global ethnography.


Political Geography is the flagship journal of political geography and advances knowledge in all aspects of the geographical and spatial dimensions of politics and the political. It was established in 1982, consistently ranks among the most high impact and well regarded journals across the disciplines of geography, history, political science, sociology, and interdisciplinary social sciences.

For the full-length article, see: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2020.102225

Dr. Oliveira presents his research at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

Video of lecture at UFRRJ, July 31, 2020

Video of lecture at UFRRJ, July 31, 2020

Dr. Oliveira interviewed by the South China Morning Post

China urged to diversify soybean sources to curb reliance on US

Jun Mai, South China Morning Post, May 22, 2020


Li’s proposal [that China should diversity soy imports from the US and Brazil] would also be difficult to implement because of China’s industrialisation and concentration of livestock production, according to Gustavo Oliveira, an assistant professor with the University of California, Irvine, who tracks global soybean production.

“The main difficulty faced by China is about the continued industrialisation and concentration of livestock production, which guarantees that demand for soy-based livestock feed outpaces China’s capacity for domestic production and procurement from countries besides Brazil and the US,” he said.

For the full report, see: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3085579/china-urged-diversify-soybean-sources-curb-over-reliance-us

Dr. Oliveira published in the Edward Elgar Handbook of Critical Agrarian Studies

BRICS and Global Agrarian Transformations

Gustavo de L. T. Oliveira and Ben McKay

Dr. Oliveira’s co-authored chapter “BRICS and Global Agrarian Transformations” has just been accepted for publication in the The Handbook of Critical Agrarian Studies, edited by Haroon Akram-Lodhi, Kristina Dietz, Bettina Engels, and Ben McKay , edited by Matthew Himley, Elizabeth Havice, and Gabriela Valdivia. The edited volume is forthcoming from Edward Elgar.


Understanding the rise of emerging economies like the BRICS is central to analysis of contemporary global agrarian transformations. Yet it is not simply their associated geopolitical transformations that call attention from, and provide new insights for critical agrarian studies. The point is not to debate whether new agribusiness companies and development models from the BRICS are a success of resistance to the Global North, or a new sub-imperialist project against middle-income and the least developed countries. Instead, these global agrarian transformations must be rooted in the conflicts and contradictions within emerging economies themselves, as subaltern actors struggle for food sovereignty and agroecology in a protracted struggle against neoliberal elites, populist authoritarianism, and conservative nationalist movements. Our goal here is not to fully describe and analyze these struggles and their repercussions for global agrarian change, but rather to emphasize that such conflicts and heterogeneities are the most fruitful springboard for new insights in critical agrarian studies. Debates that focus upon “global convergence”, “multipolarity” and “new development paradigms” but understate grounded socio-ecological struggles and transformations (cf. West 2014; Reeves 2018) are misguided and misplaced in the social sciences in general, and critical agrarian studies in particular. As climate change advances further and the socio-ecological foundations of human life become increasingly more unstable and vulnerable, new theories, methodologies, and debates are required. The dramatic transformation of the global political economy of food and farming due to the rise of the BRICS is fertile ground for the cultivation of such new ways of thinking, and critical agrarian scholars from these regions are stepping up to the task at hand, inviting colleagues who remain snagged in the provincial terms of bygone scholarship rooted in fallen and decaying empires.

More information on the The Edward Elgar Handbook of Critical Agrarian Studies will be available shortly.

Author’s original manuscript of the chapter available here.

Dr. Oliveira published in the Routledge Handbook of Critical Resource Geography

Soy, Domestication, and Colonialism

Dr. Oliveira’s chapter “Soy, Domestication, and Colonialism” has just been accepted for publication in the Routledge Handbook of Critical Resource Geography, edited by Matthew Himley, Elizabeth Havice, and Gabriela Valdivia. The edited volume is forthcoming from Routledge.


Soy is one of the world’s most important crops by area, volume, and value. It is especially distinctive for serving as key nexus between food, livestock feed, fuel, and myriad industrial products. Its rapidly multiplying uses provide a powerful touchstone for analysis of how resources are not only created, but also constantly recreated and redesigned. In turn, these transformations reflect the shifting political ecological foundations that undergird resource creation – above all the territorial expansion of an extractive mode of production intimately associated with colonialism – and illustrate how resource-making processes generate new socio-ecological relations in their own image. This chapter begins with the historical interdependence of agriculture and colonialism, framing the domestication of plants as the archetype of resource-making. It then traces the cultivation of soybeans from its domestication and dispersal throughout present-day China through Han colonial expansion; through its early industrialization at the hands of Japanese colonizers of Korea and “Manchuria,” followed by US industrialists; to its key role in the contemporary colonization of South American hinterlands and its projected neo-colonial expansion across Africa and Asia. Finally, I critique the neo-natures created by transnational soy agribusiness through biotechnology, and the neo-colonial expansion of “Western” diets worldwide.

Keywords: soybeans, resource-making, world-making, environmental history, global political ecology

More information on the Routledge Handbook of Critical Resource Geography will be made available shortly.

Author’s original manuscript of the chapter available here.

Dr. Oliveira discusses China-Latin America relations at the Foreign Policy Association: Great Decisions Program in Newport Beach

The Foreign Policy Association has been running the Great Decisions Program since 1954, as the country’s largest discussion of world affairs.

Dr. Gustavo Oliveira was invited to present his research and lead discussion on “The co-production of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Latin America” at the Newport Beach meeting of the Foreign Policy Association: Great Decisions Program.

The event was held at the community center of the St. Mark Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach, CA. March 2, 2020.

Dr. Oliveira presents at the Global Studies Colloquium, UC Santa Barbara

“A Global Ethnography of Chinese Investments in Brazilian Agribusiness”

Professor Gustavo de L. T. Oliveira, Department of Global and International Studies, UC Irvine

Thursday, February 20 at 12:30pm to 2:00pm

The Department of Global Studies’ Colloquium Series is a lecture and lunch series, which has been made possible by the generosity of the Orfalea Endowment for the Master’s Program in Global Studies.  The Colloquium Series strives to open and explore a wide range of interdisciplinary debates and their interaction and engagement with the global, hosting new guest speakers each quarter from UCSB and beyond.  The upcoming event will be hosted in the SSMS 2001 conference room in the Global Studies Department on Thursday, February 20th at 12:30pm. Please see below for the featured talk:

“A Global Ethnography of Chinese Investments in Brazilian Agribusiness”

In the aftermath of the global food price and financial crisis of 2008, Chinese investments in Brazilian agribusiness mushroomed and two narratives emerged: either these are new South-South flows that sustain economic growth and development despite the crisis in the global North; or they are essentially land grabs that deepen Brazil’s neocolonial dependency on its new primary trade partner. Both narratives, however, regard Chinese agro industrial capital as homogenous and oversimplify it as a “global force” that has “local impacts” in Brazil and beyond. Missing from the literature is attention to the specific actors who co-produce these business deals, a transnational class of agribusiness professionals who advance their own affluence and influence by assembling Chinese capital with Brazilian land, labor, and expertise. In order to properly examine these actors and their co-production of Brazil-China agro-industrial partnerships, I advance theories and methods of global studies that are especially useful for the multiscalar and multi-sited fieldwork this research requires, viz. global ethnography and theories of assemblage and transnational class formation. I triangulate data from government, media, and company reports, field site observations, and semi-structured interviews with the boosters, brokers, bureaucrats, and businessmen who assemble Chinese capital with Brazilian agribusiness, and situate this material in relation to similar data about the political ecological struggles unfolding at the sites of investment across Brazil. Thus, my research reveals (1) the forms of power and interest bring these investments into being, and (2) their effect upon the Brazilian territory, model of development, and environment. Ultimately, I argue we can distinguish between “Paper Tigers”, companies that were feared as powerful land grabbers and relied on Brazilian political contacts but largely failed to effectively establish themselves in Brazil, and “Dragon Heads”, companies that undertook global-level mergers and acquisitions to bypass the challenges of management and socio-ecological resistance. Shifting theoretical and methodological focus to the career interests and assemblage methods undertaken by transnational agribusiness professionals who plan, produce, and profit from these endeavors, my scholarship reveals Chinese investments in Brazilian agribusiness are not determined by institutional characteristics and international relations, but rather by the class and ecological contradictions that undergird transnational agribusiness in these new hubs of global capital.

Dr. Gustavo de L. T. Oliveira is assistant professor in the Department of Global and International Studies at UC Irvine. He obtained his PhD in geography from UC Berkeley, a postdoctoral fellowship in environmental studies at Swarthmore College, and was visiting assistant professor of economic geography at Peking University. His current book project examines Chinese investments in Brazilian agribusiness and infrastructure. His work has been published in Development and Change, Globalizations, the Journal of Latin American Geography, Journal of Peasant Studies, and Territory, Politics, Governance, among others. He co-edited (with Susanna Hecht) a special issue of the Journal of Peasant Studies that has been republished as a book Soy, Globalization, and Environmental Politics in South America (Routledge, 2018), and is co-editing special issues on “China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Views from the Ground” for the journal Political Geography and another on “New Insights on Land Grabs in the BRICS and Global South” for the journal Globalizations.
For more information about the Colloquium Series, please contact Professor Jan Nederveen Pieterse, Global Studies Colloquium Director:

 UCSB Social Sciences and Media Studies Building, SSMS Conference Room 2001 (2nd Floor)


Dr. Oliveira presents at the symposium on Politics in Contemporary Brazil, UC Irvine

“The diseases of Brazil-China agroindustrialization.”

Dr. Gustavo de L. T. Oliveira, Department of Global and International Studies, UC Irvine

Invited presentation to the symposium Politics in Contemporary Brazil, organized by the Jack W. Peltason Center for the Study of Democracy and Latin American Studies Center, University of California Irvine.

Social and Behavioral Science Gateway 1511, 9:00 am – 4:15 pm, February 3, 2020.

This one-day workshop brings together Brazilian scholars focused on some of the pressing issues in the country through the lenses of political science. It offers diverse accounts about democracy, public policy, reforms and contemporary issues in a country that has experienced major political changes over the past decade. Since 2013, Brazil has witnessed massive street protests, profound political polarization, a presidential impeachment, corruption scandals, deep economic crisis and the rise of far-right populism. The workshop looks at this changing context in order to shed light on a myriad of topics of Brazilian Politics.

Dr. Oliveira’s presentation sketches a new direction for research in global political ecology and public health, examining the myriad ways in which the process of agro-industrialization that has deepened through Brazil-China economic integration is associated with increasing prevalence of plant, animal, and human diseases.


For further information contact Ricardo Fabrino Mendonça: ricardofabrino@hotmail.com