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In Session: Mistaken Histories, Troubled Identities: Case Studies in the Politics of Knowledge Production in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Hong Kong
1: Building the Davao Model: Examining Economic Growth in Davao City, Philippines, Since 1986
Friday, March 26, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States
One of the most powerful political narratives in the Philippines today is based on a myth that has never been scrutinized by scholars. In the last decade, the economic development of Davao City has become widely known in the Philippines, but it remains poorly understood. Despite frequent references to Davao City’s rise from a provincial backwater to one of the most progressive cities in the county, little empirical data has been produced by any field to justify this claim, thus obscuring both the city’s actual development history and the theoretical significance of Davao City’s economic rise. Indeed, if the common narrative is correct, the economic history of Davao City since the 1980s challenges a central tenet of the Philippine studies literature -- that political dynasty tends to undermine economic growth. Through a broad review of municipal and regional economic data and a decade of the local newspaper of record, this essay establishes for the first time the empirical outlines of Davao City’s growth history, revealing a more complicated narrative. Although the city’s growth did indeed coincide with the establishment of a local political dynasty, the specific timing and nature of this growth raises questions about the supposed role of violence in the city, and opens new avenues for research in Philippine urban history.