POSTPONED Democracy in Hard Places Seminar -- Populist Violence and Social Resistance: The Catholic Church and the Philippine Drug War


Thursday, March 26, 2020, 4:15pm to 5:30pm


Ash Center Foyer, 124 Mount Auburn St., Floor 2, Suite 200N

Please note this event has been postponed. Please check back for a future date and time for this event. 

Join us for a discussion with Steven Brooke, Assistant Professor, Comparative Politics, University of Wisconsin; and non-resident fellow, Harvard Kennedy School’s Middle East Initiative. The talk will be moderated by Tarek Masoud, Professor of Public Policy and Sultan of Oman Professor of International Relations, Harvard Kennedy School.

Research Description

Brooke will present research conducted in partnership with Dave Buckley, University of Louisville; Clarissa David, Ateneo School of Government; and Ronald Mendoza, Ateneo School of Government.

When populists use state power to target vulnerable communities, under what conditions can communities resist? We argue that religious institutions that couple a normative commitment to resisting such violence with the institutional capacity to intervene can reduce civilian victimization. Support for our argument comes from the Philippines. We blend an original dataset of nearly 2,500 drug-related police and vigilante-style killings with census data, electoral returns, and local religious infrastructures across thousands of neighborhoods in metro Manila. We find that neighborhoods with a Catholic parish experience roughly 25% fewer killings than those without. We posit five mechanisms for this relationship: parishes can threaten accountability, offer physical shelter, disrupt the processes of targeting, reduce the number of targets, or facilitate community cohesion. Our data shows that parishes more strongly influence patterns of police violence rather than vigilante-style killings, consistent with arguments that a parish's ability to threaten accountability deters state agents operating in their official capacity.

About the Democracy in Hard Places Initiative

This discussion is part of the Ash Center's Democracy in Hard Places Initiative, a program directed by Tarek Masoud, Professor of Public Policy and Sultan of Oman Professor of International Relations. Democracy in Hard Places aims to foster social science research on democratic experiments—both successful and failed—throughout the developing world to learn how democracy can be built and maintained in a variety of terrains. The initiative's seminar series brings to campus distinguished scholars and practitioners to analyze the conditions, institutions, and behaviors that enable democracy to survive in hard places.