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Ben McKay organizer and presenter at international conference

Saint Basil’s Cathedral in the Red Square, Moscow, Russia. (left), Dr. Ben McKay chairs the opening Plenary Session on ‘New Dynamics of Global Agrarian Transformation’ (right). Photos courtesy Ben Mckay and Juan Liu.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Over 100 scholars and activists from around the world met in Moscow, Russia from 13-16 October 2017 for the 5th BRICS Initiative for Critical Agrarian Studies (BICAS) conference. The international event titled,  ‘New Extractivism, Peasantries and Social Dynamics: Critical Perspectives and Debates’ was hosted by the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA). Dr. Ben McKay (Assistant Professor from U of C’s Department of Anthropology and Archaeology) was part of the conference’s international organizing committee and presented his most recent research on ‘China, Brazil and the New Extractivism in Bolivia’.

Over the course of four days, presenters discussed and debated various themes related to the rise of emerging economies and the implications for national, regional and global agrarian transformations. This included examinations of new forms of (agro) extractivism, the dynamics of social and environmental resistance, and a series on agrarian questions of labor in comparative perspective across the BRICS and other countries in the Global South. On the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Russian Revolution, panelists also discussed the lessons and legacy of the revolution on peasant and agrarian studies today.

Advancing the research agenda of the Initiative, there were also presentations and discussions that challenge conceptions of a North-South divide as the most significant dimension of global inequality in power and wealth given the rise of not only the BRICS, but also Middle-Income Countries such as Argentina, Chile, Peru, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Kenya and Nigeria. Participants discussed the new relations among countries of the global south – led by the BRICS – and whether and the extent to which they represent mutually beneficial forms of South-South Cooperation, a new imperialism or something else altogether. New state-capital alliances sit at the center of these debates, and new inquiries emerge also regarding the rise of diverse forms of nationalist and populist movements and governments around the world, prompting important questions regarding the challenges for agrarian studies and social movements in confronting authoritarian populism. These questions and others concerning the emergence of, and alternatives to, authoritarian populism will be the topic of another international conference on ‘Authoritarian Populism and the Rural World’ organized by the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative (ERPI) and hosted by the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague, The Netherlands, 17-18 March, 2018. For information on ERPI and the conference can be found here

The event in Moscow produced over 70 conference papers, part of our BICAS Working Paper Series and can be found here. The BICAS network has already produced two Special Issues in peer-reviewed academic journals on the rise of BRICS and MICs and the implications for global agrarian transformation published in Third World Thematics: A TWQ Journal (co-guest edited by Ben McKay) and in the journal Globalizations (forthcoming).

The next BICAS international conference will take place in Brasilia, Brazil in November 2018. If you are interested in joining the initiative and participating in future BICAS conferences please contact Dr. Ben McKay at