Prof. Dr. Margarita M. Balmaceda

Guest Researcher
Tel. +49 (30) 2005949-73
margarita.balmaceda(at)zois-berlin(dot)de

Margarita M. Balmaceda is Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University and Associate at the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute (HURI). Concurrently, she heads the interdisciplinary Study Group “Energy materiality: Infrastructure, Spatiality and Power” at the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg. She is also a member of ZOiS’ International Academic Advisory Board. Her research looks at the international political economy of the post-Soviet states from “inside” these societies and political systems.

Her education includes studies in International Relations at the Universidad del Salvador (Buenos Aires), a B.A. in International Studies from Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore), a PhD in Political Science from Princeton University and post-doctoral training in Ukrainian Studies at Harvard University . Capitalising on her fluency in several Eastern European languages, she has conducted extensive field research in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Lithuania, Moldova, and Hungary. Additional training – such as on “Ukrainian for energy” (Kyiv, 2003) and “Ukrainian for mining and metallurgy” (Kyiv, 2016) – has supported research on the international political economy of the region from perspective of local processes and actors. Past research (supported by three Fulbright fellowships and a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship, among others) has focused on the energy politics of energy-poor states. Her books on the issue include: Energy Dependency, Politics and Corruption in the Former Soviet Union: Russia’s Power, Oligarch’s Profits and Ukraine’s Missing Energy Policy, 1995-2006 (Routledge, 2008), The Politics of Energy Dependency: Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania Between Domestic Oligarchs and Russian Pressure (U. of Toronto Press, 2013), a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Publication awardee for 2014, and Living the High Life in Minsk: Russian Energy Rents, Domestic Populism and Belarus’ Impending Crisis (CEU Press, 2014), recipient of the 2015 Best Foreign Book on Belarus award.

She is actively engaged in the promotion of transatlantic academic cooperation and support of junior scholars, both as member of relevant academic advisory boards (Forschungsstelle Osteuropa/University of Bremen; Belarus-Analysen, DiscussData, Horizon 2020/EU-STRAT) and as volunteer representative (“Humboldtian on Campus”) of the Humboldt Foundation in the Cambridge/Boston area.

Research project

Chains of Value, Chains of Power: Russian Energy, Value Chains and the Remaking of Social Relations from Vladivostok to Brussels

This book project seeks to answer two central questions: (1) How have energy value chains affected post-Soviet power relations and Russia’s ability to use energy as means of leverage? (2) How has their impact been different for different types of energy? To answer these questions, the book brings insights from anthropology, economics, critical geography, and energy technology into a dialogue, and, as case studies, follows the actual, traceable value chains of three energy units (“molecules”) from production in Siberia through transportation in Ukraine to final use in Germany. It looks at how differences in the material characteristics of different types of energy and the resulting differences in processing technologies and markets can create constraints on actors’ behaviour, also affecting how different types of energy may be “used” as external (“power over”) but also as domestic sources of power (“power to”). Early results highlight the importance of energy-source-specific technical processes for understanding political interactions. In doing this, the book seeks to make a contribution both to political science and to science and technology studies on the impact of technology on society and politics.

The project has been supported among others by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the EURIAS programme, and the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Russian Studies – Choices of Russian Modernisation.

Research interests

  • International Political Economy of the post-Soviet region with a focus on Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia
  • Political economy of de-facto states/ambiguous statehood areas
  • Trans-border infrastructures
  • Natural resources, peace and conflict studies
  • Energy policies of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, and the European Union
  • Mining, coal, and metallurgical transnational value chains

Selected Publications