Jane Esberg is a PhD Candidate in Political Science. Her research focuses on authoritarian repression in historical dictatorships, using new micro-data on political killings, political prisoner trials, and pop culture censorship. She is a Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow and a fellow at the Center for Ethics in Society. With the support of a research grant from The Europe Center, Jane traveled to Madrid and Salamanca in September 2016 and September 2017 to research civilian and military court records dating back to the days of Franco.
While literature on repression often treats it only as a means to suppress opposition, many dictators rely on a base of support to maintain power. Through her dissertation research Jane seeks to understand the political logic of repression by exploring how regimes use tactics to stifle opposition and appeal to supporters. While her work predominantly uses microdata from Chile's dictatorship to explore political killings, political prisoner trials, and popular culture censorship, she also looks at the use of courts to try political prisoners in Spain under Franco (1939-1975). This has taken her to archives in Madrid and Salamanca. During her first trip she collected the 4,000 case summaries from the Tribunal of Public Order (TOP), a civilian court in charge of political crimes from 1963 to 1975, through the human rights group Lawyers of Atocha (Abogados de Atocha). Jane's second trip focused on exploring the military tribunal records from the same period, which cover violent crimes. Funding from The Europe Center also contributed to digitizing the TOP summaries, which Jane will use for quantitative text analysis.