Cognitive Polyphasia in a Global South Populist Democracy: Mapping Social Representations of Duterte’s Regime in the Philippines

Joshua Uyheng, Cristina Jayme Montiel


Prevailing scholarship on populism focuses on explaining polarized patterns of support and opposition for populist regimes. This paper extends this conceptualization to account for the fragmented politics of Global South democracies. Invoking the concept of cognitive polyphasia, we map the Filipino public’s social representations of Duterte’s populist regime in the Philippines. Utilizing a mixed methods approach, we uncover a representational field organized by the two dimensions of political alignment (support vs. opposition) and political frame (individual vs. system). Diversely embedded in this polyphasic field, supporters of the regime may construct Duterte’s individual leadership in terms of paternalistic patriotism, or the broader government as a morally-bankrupt yet progressive technocracy. Opposition to the regime may frame the president as an oppressive tyrant, or his administration as a historical continuation of entrenched state violence. Our findings contribute to extant populism debates by describing unique representational processes of differentiation and annexation in unequal populist publics. We reflect on implications for democratic engagement in the Philippines and the broader Global South.


populism; cognitive polyphasia; social representations; Global South; Duterte; Philippines; representational annexation

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ISSN: 2195-3325
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