UCL Institute of the Americas


Dr Enrique Castañón Ballivián

Dr Enrique Castañón Ballivián


Lecturer in International Development

Programme Director: MSc international Development in the americas


Enrique Castañón Ballivián is a Lecturer in International Development at the Institute of the Americas, University College London. He joined UCL in 2022 after four years of teaching at SOAS Department of Development Studies where he completed his PhD funded by a SOAS Research Studentship. In 2008, he was awarded the prestigious Chevening Scholarship to read an MSc in Environment and Development at King’s College London which he passed with distinction.

Before embarking on his PhD, Enrique spent several years working as a ‘development practitioner’ for prominent development organizations such as the United Nations, Oxfam, the Irish charity Trocaire, and other local NGOs in his home country of Bolivia. During those years, he was involved in various initiatives to tackle the impacts of climate change and promote sustainable development in Latin America. This substantial working experience in International Development feeds directly into Enrique’s teaching practice as he regularly brings examples and anecdotes to establish connections (and tensions) between development theory, practice, and policy.

Enrique’s interdisciplinary work advances a political ecology research that is firmly rooted in the theoretical foundations of agrarian political economy. He focuses on the process of agrarian change brought about by the expansion of agribusiness in the Amazon region. He has been researching the dynamics, theory, and politics of this complex process that is radically transforming landscapes and social relations in South America. His work has been published in top academic journals such as the Journal of Peasant Studies and he has also authored research reports funded by Oxfam and the European Commission. He currently serves as the book review editor of the Journal of Agrarian Change, the leading journal of agrarian political economy.

Research Summary

Enrique’s research agenda revolves around three interrelated themes:

The political economy of agribusiness expansion

This theme explores the process of articulation of campesino classes of labour into the global soybean chain. It investigates the close and rather understudied relationship between agribusiness expansion and precarity. In doing so, it seeks to elaborate a critique of both teleological modernization narratives and populist interpretations that fail to capture the complex dynamics at work on the ground.

Social difference, exclusion, and resource politics

This research theme analyses how social difference along the lines of class, ethnicity, race, and gender determines the dynamics of exclusion in resource disputes. It examines the material restrictions imposed by these axes of difference and how these might lead to the articulation of particular social identities that are mobilised to legitimate resource claims.

Global production through nature

Drawing on recent debates in economic geography, this theme investigates how global supply chains are constituted in and through nature. It explores the political, technological, cultural, and financial practices that enable the appropriation of nature through the expanding territorial activity of international agri-food systems. This demands attention to the organisational arrangements of firms, labour and the state that allow the metabolization of nature as capitalist value.

Teaching Summary


AMER0093 The Political Ecology of Development in Latin America

AMER0053 Research Methods

Post Graduate Taught:

AMER0009 Globalisation and Latin American Development: Latin America in the Twenty-First Century

AMER0094 Latin American Perspectives on Development


Research Publications

Peer-reviewed articles

Book chapters

  • Castañón Ballivián, E. (2016) ‘Discurso empresarial versus realidade camponesa na produção de soja no departamento de Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Uma leitura a partir da ecologia politica’. In Buhler, E. Guibert, M. and De Oliveira, Valter. (eds) Agriculturas empresariais e espaços rurais na globalização. Abordagens a partir da America do sul. (pp. 255-275) Universidade Federal Do Rio Grande Do Sul, Brasil. DOI: 10.7476/9786557250044.0013 (Open Access:
  • Castañón Ballivián, E. (2013) ‘Comunidades campesinas en territorio agroindustrial: diferenciación social y seguridad alimentaria en el municipio de Cuatro Cañadas’. In Chumacero, J.P. ¿Comer de nuestra tierra? Estudios de caso sobre tierra y producción de alimentos en Bolivia. (pp. 85-132) Fundación TIERRA. La Paz, Bolivia.

Book reviews

  • Castañón Ballivián, E. (2020) ‘Limits to Decolonization: Indigeneity, Territory, and Hydrocarbon Politics in the Bolivian Chaco by Penelope Anthias’. Cornell University Press. Journal of Agrarian Change 21 (3) 671-3 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/joac.12390
  • Castañón Ballivián, E. (2013) ‘Sobre Alimentos globalizados: Soberanía alimentaria y comercio justo de Xavier Montagut, Fabrizio Dogliotti, y Xarxa de Consum Solidari’. Nueva Crónica No. 128.

Research reports and policy papers

  • Castañón Ballivián, E. (2017) ‘Empresas transnacionales en el agronegocio soyero. Una aproximación a sus estrategias y relaciones con los pequeños productores campesinos’. Fundación TIERRA. (Research funded by Oxfam)
  • Castañón Ballivián, E. (2014) ‘Two sides of the same coin: agriculture and food security in Bolivia’ Forschungs-und Dokumentationszentrum Chile-Lateinamerika (Research funded by the European Commission)
  • Castañón Ballivián, E. (2013) ‘Seguridad alimentaria con soberanía: Hacia una política alimentaria posneoliberal’. Migraña, Revista de Análisis Político. No. 9. Vicepresidencia del Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia. La Paz, Bolivia.
  • Castañón Ballivián, E. (2010) ‘The Impact of the Camellones Technology on People’s Livelihoods: The Bolivian Amazon’s Experience’. Oxfam, Bolivia.
  • Castañón Ballivián, E. (2010) ‘The Value of Water in Bolivia: An economic resource or a human right?’ Development Research Working Papers Series. Institute for Advanced Development Studies, Bolivia.