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Research in Progress

Book Project

Civilian Agency & Collective Action in the Colombian Civil War
Refusing to Cooperate with Armed Groups

My book deals with the collective roles that civilians come to play in the context of civil war. Concretely, it documents and analyzes a little-studied pattern of civilian agency: civilian noncooperation with armed groups. It develops a theory that specifies where and when civilians are more likely to organize themselves to refuse non-violently to cooperate with armed organizations.  Where territorial control is shifting, where violence against civilians has recently spiked, and where targeting is perceived as unavoidable, a desire for noncooperation is likely to evolve. However, this desire is not enough for us to observe organized noncooperation. Campaigns of noncooperation are likely to emerge when desire meets capacity for collective action. Localities with a prior history of mobilization and/or with the support of external actors are more likely to count on the leadership and the associational space needed for organizing action.  Civilian noncooperation is proposed both as a strategy of community self-protection and a form of contentious politics. In this sense, I bridge scholarship on the micro-dynamics of civil war, civil resistance, social movements/collective action and civilian protection. The analysis is embedded in a three-stage research design that combines within-case analysis, cross-case structured and focused comparisons, and paired comparisons of positive and control observations. The empirical data, both qualitative and quantitative, was gathered during two separate waves of field research in multiple warzones in the Colombian civil war using different techniques of data collection.  The goal of this book is accomplished to the extent that it succeeds in the art of combining parsimonious theorization of an outcome with the smells and sounds of the complex processes that give life to that outcome. In other words, providing sensitive simplification and empirically falsifiable claims is as important as offering a realistic and fair account of the lives of the communities I lived and worked with over the past years. Ultimately, it is for the reader to judge.

The Human Costs of the War on Drugs​
Attitudes towards Militarization of Security in Mexico

with Davide Morisi, Collegio Carlo Alberto

Partially funded by CIDE Experimental Unit, Leiden University and Oxford University


The militarization of security enjoys strong popular support in various crime-ridden countries. Yet, we know little about the determinants of such support. Do people support militarization even in the face of human fatalities? We tackle this question in the context of Mexico's "war on drugs." In three experimental studies, we manipulate the presence of human costs in a military operation against a drug lord and present arguments either justifying or condemning these costs. We consistently find that, even in successful operations, support for militarization decreases when military operations involve civilian casualties, but not when casualties are cartel-related. This finding holds both for victims and non-victims of cartel-related violence. Yet, arguments that justify these costs in light of the goal of eradicating organized crime increase support. These findings shed light on the public opinion side of the militarization of security debate, with important implications for security policy reform and democratic politics.

[OSF Pre-print here]

Media coverage:

- "Hugs, not Gunshots": How can ALMO convince Mexicans of a new approach to security. Political Violence @ a Glance October 18, 2018

- "Abrazos, no balazos": ¿Cómo puede AMLO conseguir apoyo popular para un cambio en la política de seguridad mexicana? Oraculus. February 12, 2019

Working Papers

with Simone Cremaschi, Bocconi University

Partially funded by UNU-WIDER and ERC


Can past wartime experiences affect political behavior beyond those who directly experienced them? We argue that local experiences of armed resistance leave political legacies that can be translated into contemporary political action via a community-based process of intergenerational transmission consisting of three core activities -- memorialization, localization, and mobilization -- and put forward by memory entrepreneurs. We empirically substantiate this argument in Italy, which experienced an intense armed resistance movement against Nazi-Fascist forces in the 1940s. We combine statistical analysis of original data across Italian municipalities and within-case analysis of a purposively selected locality to show how the past impacts the present via the preservation and activation of collective memories. This study improves our understanding of the processes of long-term transmission, emphasizes armed resistance as a critical source of war's long-term political legacies, and explores its political effects beyond electoral and party politics.


The Political Legacies of Wartime Resistance

How Local Communities in Italy Keep Anti-fascist Sentiments Alive

Research Projects

Brazil's Fight Against Drug Syndicates
Assessing Support for conditional security policies 

with Davide Morisi, Collegio Carlo Alberto

Partially unded by John Fell Fund & Latin American Center, Oxford University


Since Brazil's transition to democracy in the mid-1980s, drug-related violence has been a central threat to citizens' security, especially in the hundreds of favelas (slums) in the country's main cities. In an effort to fight drug syndicates controlling large portions of these cities, for over 30 years state governments have privileged an "iron-fist" approach based on unconditional crackdowns on criminal organizations. This approach has had dramatic human consequences – e.g., between 2003 and 2017 Rio's military police killed over 13,000 civilians (Magaloni et al. 2018) – and has proved largely unsuccessful in both curbing the drug trade and preventing violence. Contrary to this approach, recent research and policy experiments in US cities, show that conditional policies – i.e., state repression conditional on criminal groups' behavior – are likely to be more effective in bringing citizen security (e.g., Lessing 2018). Yet, despite their potential effectiveness, these policies have been rarely implemented.

Allegedly, this is the case because, unlike unconditional repression, conditional policies face strong “acceptability constraints” among the general public, making them politically “toxic” for politicians. By means of fieldwork, surveys, and experiments in various Brazilian cities – including Sāo Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the country's two major cities –, we empirically examine: (i) whether it is the case that Brazilians are not willing to support conditional policies to combat crime; and, (i) under what conditions Brazilians are more likely to move away from support for “iron first” approaches and give conditionality a chance.

"Putting Yourself in Their Shoes” 
Fostering Positive Attitudes Towards Venezuelan Migrants  in Ecuador

with Diana Davila Gordillo, Lake Forest College;  Leila Demarest, Leiden University; Katharina Natter, Leiden University; Paolo Moncagatta, Universidad San Francisco de Quito

Partially funded by EGAP & Leiden University

Does “putting yourself in the migrant’s shoes” elicit more positive attitudes toward migration? Can perspective-taking – the active consideration of others’ mental states and subjective experiences (Todd and Galinsky 2014) – help undermine negative stereotypes and prejudice against migrants? We explore these questions in Ecuador, the third-largest receiver of Venezuelans in the current migration crisis. Venezuelans in Ecuador, like in most other Latin American countries, have been subject to widespread xenophobia, discrimination, and even criminalization. Through a survey of final-year secondary school students (total sample size 1500), we experimentally assess the effect of a light touch perspective-taking intervention on attitudes towards immigrants and immigration policy.



Institute of Political Science

Leiden University
Turfmarkt 99

2511 DP The Hague
Room  6.06

+31 70 800 3879

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