Dr. Cristina Montiel: Working towards social peace
As a young faculty member, Dr. Cristina Montiel actively rallied against the Marcos dictatorship. During those tumultuous times, the multi-awarded faculty member and researcher from the Department of Psychology saw both the good and the bad sides of armed struggle and from then on, decided to work in the field of social peace.
“Social peace, not in the weak sense of running away, but of confronting whatever is not fair,” Montiel says of the field that started her off as a researcher. Now a well-known name in the field of Peace and Political Psychology, Montiel credits her “political animal” self before for her interest in the said field.
“Political psychology looks at behaviors and mental processes of groups and people in power while peace, at least in the global south, is about power—grappling with power, proper use of power,” she explains.
Montiel has gained recognition and has served in leadership roles in both local and international local peace/political psychology organizations. She was awarded the Ralph K. White Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010, the premium award for scholarship and applied studies in the field of Peace Psychology. Montiel was the first non-American to receive the award from the American Psychological Association, Division of Peace Psychology.
“It’s fun doing research. It comes naturally. It’s where I can be more creative and explore the world of ideas,” Montiel says.
A professor at the Department of Psychology of the Ateneo de Manila University for 35 years now, Montiel says that teaching really grounds her with people and the realities of everyday life. “Ateneo is the place where I can really be happy. The community is supportive. It’s open minded, it has its spiritual depths, and it’s intelligent,” she shares.
Montiel has also been involved with several Philippine political movements like the Kapulungan ng mga Sandigan ng Pilipinas, Pilipino Democratic Party, PDP-LABAN Party (the political party of President Corazon Aquino that spearheaded People Power I in 1986). In, 1981, She founded and chaired Lingap Bilangg, a Philippine movement for human rights and political prisoners’ general amnesty during the Marcos dictatorship. She was also a consultant for training and research in the Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process (1995, 2013) and a consultant for research on extrajudicial killings, Commission on Human Rights (2013).
Some of her most recent publications are the co-authored works "Nationalism in local media during international conflict: Text-mining domestic news reports of the China-Philippines maritime dispute” published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology; “Professor Ed Cairns: A personal and professional biography” published in Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology; “Contributions of psychology to war and peace” published in American Psychologist; and “Conflicting group meaning of territorial rights in Central Mindanao: Muslim-Christian social representations of land entitlement” published in the Journal of Pacific Rim Psychology. Montiel also co-authored of the book Peace Psychology in Asia (2009) with Noraini Noor.
Currently, she is the Convenor of the Peace, Social Justice and Democratic Governance research cluster of the School of Social Sciences. “It’s a combination of faculty from different departments. Because there’s a cluster, we are able to think beyond our disciplines and it makes the research richer,” Montiel remarks.
Since 2012, the cluster members have published the following works in high impact journals: “Fragmented ethnopolitical social representations of a territorial peace agreement: The Mindanao peace talks (2012)” by Cristina Montiel, Judith De Guzman and Elizabeth Macapagal in Journal of Pacific Rim Psychology; “Keeping the State at Bay: The Killing of Journalists in the Philippines, 1998-2012 (2014)” by Filomeno Aguilar, Meynardo Mendoza, and Anne Candelaria in Critical Asian Studies; and “Nationalism in local media during international conflict: Text-mining domestic news reports of the China-Philippines maritime dispute (2014), by Cristina Montiel, Alma Salvador, Daisy See, and Marlene de Leon in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology.
Asked what other topics she wants to personally explore in the near future, Montiel answers: “The nature of the psychology of politics and the psychology of peace in the Global South, more specifically, the psychology of democratic transitions, and also the psychology of peace building.”