Christin Bernhold

Christin Bernhold

PhD student

Economic Geography

Tel.: 044 63 55244

Room number: Y25 L 44



Upgrading, competitive strategies, and uneven development

Embedding upgrading of Argentinian soft commodity chains in its political-economic environment. (working title)

Ph.D. project of Christin Bernhold, funded by the CanDoc Forschungskredit, University of Zurich

PhD Committee: Prof. Dr. Christian Berndt, Prof. Dr. Christof Parnreiter, Prof. Dr. Víctor Ramiro Fernandez, Prof. Dr. Benedikt Korf


Within economic geography, much of today’s research on the interweaving of local developments and global political economy draws from conceptual frameworks such as global commodity or value chains (GCCs/GVCs), and global production networks (GPNs). However, while GCC research was initially intended to critically analyze uneven development and center-periphery relations in the global political economy, many academics have sidelined issues of inequality and social antagonisms. Instead, scholars and policy makers increasingly focus on upgrading. The latter is regarded as being critical for achieving socio-economic progress.

My PhD-project is designed as an empirically informed ideology critique of upgrading as a new paradigm for development. Critical political economy comprises my theoretical framework: I seek to strengthen approaches that analyze how social relations of production shape both upgrading strategies and its social outcomes with respect to inequality and variation over uneven geographies of capitalism. Yet, my research is strongly based on empirical work, designed as a multi-sited endeavor that relies on semi-structured interviews, text corpora, and quantitative data. First, it investigates competitive and upgrading strategies of companies and business associations (as well as their limits) in the soy agro-industrial chain in Argentina, especially in the Pampa region. Second, it looks at contradictory and unequal socio-economic outcomes of soy chain upgrading and how historically modifying social relations, and economic as well as politico-ideological struggles shape them.



2012: University of Hamburg, Diploma in Geography



Since 2013

PhD Student, Research Associate | Department of Geography, University of Zurich


Teaching Appointment, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Latin America Studies, University of Hamburg (Course: Political Geography in Latin America)


Project coordinator at the Institute of Geography, University of Hamburg, Germany (maternity leave replacement)

Teaching Appointment, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Latin America Studies, University of Hamburg (Course: Economic Geography of “development” and “underdevelopment” in Latin America)

Teaching Appointment, Faculty of Mathematics, Informatics and Natural Sciences, Department of Geography, University of Hamburg (Course: Methods – How to develop a research question?)


Teaching Appointment, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Latin America Studies, University of Hamburg (Course: Economic Geography of “development” and “underdevelopment” in Latin America)


2015/2016: Forschungskredit (Candoc), University of Zurich

Conference Papers and Public Talks



'Who’s upgrading? Class differentiation and labor relations in Argentinian agribusiness'. Bottom-up workshop 'Class politics in Peripheral Capitalism after the Crisis'. European University Institute (EUI), Florence (April 2018).



'Die politische Ökonomie der Sojaindustrie'. Tagung zum Thema 'Soja - Fluch oder Segen? Problematiken in Anbau, Handel und Konsum'. Comundo, Luzern: mit Silva Lieberherr (Juni 2017).



'Las relaciones interempresariales en las redes productivas del agro pampeano. Un caso de estudio'. Pre Congreso ALASRU (Asociación Latinoamericana de Sociología Rural),  Santiago del Estero, Argentina: with Tomás Palmisano, Grupo de Estudios Rurales (GER), University of Buenos Aires (October 2016)

'Argentinian agro-industrial chains, upgrading, uneven development: Linking Marxian theory of social labour and commodity chain research'. ITH-Konferenz 'Güterketten und Arbeitsverhältnisse', Steyr, Austria (September 2016)


'Argentinian soy chains, upgrading, and uneven development: (Re)incorporating state theory and critical political economy into GVC-research'. Annual Conference of the Association of American Geographers, San Fransisco, USA (April 2016)