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Philip Johnson

Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Residency: September 2020 – May 2021
Non-Resident Fellow: September 2021 – May 2022

Research Project: Narcommunication: The Marketing and Messaging of Organized Crime

Research Interests: Organized crime, political violence and terrorism, media and propaganda, ethnography, discourse analysis


Philip Luke Johnson is a doctoral candidate in political science at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. His research centers on violence, crime and the media, with a close focus on Latin America and the U.S. He is a member of the Noria Mexico and Central America Program.

Johnson’s dissertation project examines public communication by criminal actors. Organized crime usually maintains a low profile and builds influence through clandestine, localized networks. Speaking publicly to broad audiences seems to undermine such influence. Research to date addresses why criminal actors kill publicly, but not why these actors also speak publicly. To examine this phenomenon, Johnson conducted 10 months of research in Mexico, assembling a collection of over 6,000 “narco-messages” displayed in the country between 2004 and 2013. He uses content analysis to identify recurring claims in these messages, and discourse analysis to examine the underlying meaning of these claims. This project is supported by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation.