Visiting researcher at ICSID
Amanda Zadorian, Ph.D. Candidate in Politics at the New School for Social Research, spent a month working at ICSID this summer. Amanda answered a couple of our questions about her current research and her stay in Moscow.
1. What is currently the subject of your research and why did you choose this particular topic?
My current (dissertation) project compares reforms to the oil industries of Russia and Brazil before and during the commodity price boom of 2004-14. I describe how commercial pressures have brought private-sector corporate governance and resource management practices to national oil companies Rosneft and Petrobras; at the same time, oil came to be seen as central to the development of competitive “knowledge economies” in the two countries. I play with the neoclassical idea of the “rentier state,” which is a state that is unaccountable to its citizens because its revenue derives from non-tax sources, to talk about how performances of professionalism and external benchmarking can legitimate political authority.
2. Why did you choose the Post-Soviet region as a subject of your research and the Higher School of Economics as a place to do it?
During my M.A. studies I became interested in both the political economy of development and in the Post-Soviet region. An important area where these two fields of study overlap is oil: how oil extraction and natural resource revenues influence political institutions. So, I began looking into oil in Russia and the project developed from there. I was incredibly lucky to learn about HSE and ICSID’s Visiting Researcher program while I was preparing to come to Moscow for fieldwork; I arrived in 2015 just in time for the Annual Conference and have been coming back every year since!
3. What do you think about the Center and the work it does?
I think ICSID is a crucial physical and intellectual space for the study of Russia’s and the region’s political economy. It is invaluable that they provide research visas to Ph.D. students like me, and in doing so they have cemented a cross-institutional and cross-national network among the new generation of Russia scholars. Intellectually, I think the Center’s work is important for overcoming the standard division in political economy that holds former transition economies in Eastern Europe apart from “developing” countries and advanced capitalist countries.
4. Do you have any advice for foreign colleagues who are going to do research in Russia for the first time?
I suppose I can speak to the expectations of an American coming to Moscow for the first time: everything will take more time than you expect it to, and everyone is much friendlier than they initially seem. In my experience, Russians—even in the business sector—have a lot of respect for research as an endeavor. On a practical level: if it is your first time in Moscow, the system of building addresses takes some getting used to! Give yourself time to get lost.
5. What is your impression of Moscow? How do you enjoy living here?
Moscow might be my favorite city in the world – though I should note that I have only been here during the summers! The minor inconveniences, like sidewalks perpetually under construction, are more than compensated for by the city’s vast lovely parks and endlessly varied cultural programming.