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Revisiting the War on Drugs: A Public Lecture

The UP CIDS Program on Social and Political Change (PSPC) is co-organizing a public lecture, “Revisiting the War on Drugs,” on 16 November 2023 (Thursday), 4:00 pm–5:30pm, Audiovisual Room (Room 207), 2F, Palma Hall, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of the Philippines Diliman. The lecture is free and open to the public, but seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Lecture

Over a year has passed since former president Rodrigo Duterte stepped down from power. The killings resulting from anti-illegal drug operations have not stopped. How do we make sense of the persistence of violence? Drawing from their book, Communal Intimacy and the Violence of Politics: Understanding the War on Drugs in Bagong Silang, Philippines, Steffen Jensen and Karl Hapal offer an explanation based on nearly 10 years of ethnographic work. Rather than reducing the war on drugs to Duterte’s murderous ways, the lecture explores the conditions that allowed it. The lecture does this by looking at barangay Bagong Silang, an urban poor resettlement site North of Metro Manila that has long been a zone of exclusion and death. The lecture discusses how the war on drugs is not some exogenous phenomenon that descended on places like Bagong Silang. Instead, communal relations in Bagong Silang, mediated by gerontocratic and patron-client authority structures, provided the conditions where the war could unfold and escalate. It asks, what are the repercussions of the war in places like Bagong Silang, not least at the cusp of the barangay elections. The lecture also discusses various methodological challenges, particularly encountering and studying violence in the field, and engaged scholarship for social justice and human rights.

The Speakers

Steffen Jensen is a professor at Global Refugee Studies, the department of politics and society at Aalborg University as well as a senior researcher at DIGNITY: Danish Institute Against Torture. He has published extensively on state and non-state violence, human rights, urban studies as well as displacement and confinement. He has done extensive field work in Marseille, Cape Town and Manila.

Karl Hapal is an assistant professor at the College of Social Work and Community Development, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Philippines. He is also the co-author of the book, Communal intimacy and the Violence of Politics: Understanding the War on Drugs in Bagong Silang, Philippines. Prior entering the academia, he worked as a researcher for a human rights organization in the Philippines. His fields of interest are human rights, violence, community development, and community organizing.


This roundtable is organized by the Program on Social and Political Change (PSPC), UP CIDS; The College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, UP Diliman; and the Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines Diliman. The PSPC is one of 12 research programs under the Center for Integrative and Development Studies. Learn more about the Program and download free policy papers on Philippine politics and governance.

For inquiries about the roundtable, please [email protected].

A Same-Day Lecture

The roundtable will be preceded by a public lecture, “Why Was Duterte so Popular, Why Did BBM win?: Tracing Political Sensibilities Across Social Class and Over Time: A Preliminary Analysis of 12 Months of Ethnographic Fieldwork in Metro Manila” by Dr. Marco Z. Garrido, Associate Professor from the University of Chicago. The lecture will be held from 1:00 pm–3:00pm, 16 November 2023, also at Room 207, Palma Hall. For inquiries, please contact the organizer, the UP Department of Political Science: [email protected]