Nottingham ESRC Doctoral Training Centre

Overseas Fieldwork Report: Alastair Grey

Nottingham DTC student Alastair Grey, reporting back after his ESRC-funded Overseas Fieldwork Visit to the Ukraine between April and July 2017

Purpose of overseas fieldwork trip

The empirical focus of my research is on the construction of and agricultural market economy in post-Soviet Ukraine, and its (re)integration into global commodity markets. The purpose of my overseas fieldwork was to conduct in-depth semi-structured interviews with participants working in the sphere of agricultural production, exchange and export. This includes: people working for local agricultural businesses of varying sizes; international trading houses operating in Ukraine; international governance and lending institutions; and government and non-governmental organizations operating in the agricultural sphere.

During my visit I conducted 29 interviews.  I also attended a round-table organized by the Ukrainian National University of Life and Environmental Science. Those participating at the conference included representatives the International Financial Corporation and the U.S. Agency for International Development. I subsequently wrote a short ethnography on the conference as part of the fieldwork diary I kept during my time in the field. 

Institutional connections with other Universities

Whilst in Kiev, contacted the Ukrainian Geographical Society. Through our communication, I became aware of the 7th International Urban Geographies of Post-Socialist States Conference to be held in Kyiv in September, where I will present on a subject derived from my research findings. 

How the fieldwork will affect the completion of the project

Spending three months in Ukraine conducting face-to-face interviews, plus attending round tables and conferences attended by key stakeholders in the sphere of agricultural production and trade, has yielded important insights into the nature and workings of agricultural production and trade in the context of Ukraine. The data collected from the interviews I have conducted will now inform empirical chapters of my PhD thesis, and I intend to spend the coming months transcribing the interview recordings, coding the data and analysing the findings. In doing so, I will use the data collected during fieldwork to answer the theoretical and conceptual questions that I developed during the first year of the PhD.

Furthermore, meeting face-to-face with key actors working in and shaping the Ukrainian agricultural sector enabled me to evolve the focus of my research in a manner which may not have been the case, had I not travelled to ‘into the field’.  When I embarked on the fieldwork trip, I had narrowed the focus of my research, however whilst conducting interviews in the field, a key theme kept emerging. Following further investigation in this theme I have now developed a second empirical focus of the research which will give the thesis depth and relevance to the current markets.


Overall, I am very satisfied with how the field trip went. I met with a majority of the stakeholders that I identified in the research plan agreed with supervisors prior to embarking on the trip. I now have ample data to begin the next stage of my PhD thesis, namely, conducting data analysis and writing the empirical chapters. I have also managed to develop institutional connections in Kiev that will provide an opportunity for me to disseminate my research findings over the next year.

Posted on Tuesday 1st August 2017

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