Reversible Destiny: Mafia, Antimafia, and the Struggle for Palermo

By Jane C. Schneider; Peter T. Schneider | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
The Genesis of the Mafia

To place the article “the” before the word “mafia, ” as in “The Genesis of the Mafia, ” is to risk attributing a misplaced concreteness to an elusive phenomenon. There is, however, another risk that must also be considered: underestimating the institutional energy and coherence of Sicilian organized crime. This does not mean that the mafia is an age-old institution. There is a growing historiography of mafia formation, all of which points to a relatively shallow time frame. The mafia dates to the second half of the nineteenth century, when it emerged out of the “transition” from feudalism to capitalism in (especially western) Sicily, and out of the politics surrounding the fall of the ancien régime of the Bourbons and its replacement by the Italian nation-state. This very history is a brief for defining the mafia as inherently ambiguous—both more of a “thing” than it appears, yet less of one than numerous authorities have made it out to be. An overview of bandit and criminal formations in other times and places reinforces the central argument about ambiguity. The chapter concludes with a preliminary assessment of what, in spite of necessary caution, we think the mafia “is” at this point, a sketch that will be amplified in the chapters to follow.


INCIPIENT MAFIA FORMATION: 1815 TO 1859

Sicily entered the nineteenth century as a vice-royalty of the Bourbon Kingdom of Naples but ended up in British hands when southern Italy

-22-

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Reversible Destiny: Mafia, Antimafia, and the Struggle for Palermo
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Chapter 1 - The Palermo Crucible 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Genesis of the Mafia 22
  • Chapter 3 - The Mafia and the Cold War 49
  • Chapter 4 - The Cultural Production of Violence 81
  • Chapter 5 - Seeking Causes, Casting Blame 103
  • Chapter 6 - Mysteries and Poisons 127
  • Chapter 7 - The Antimafia Movement 160
  • Chapter 8 - Backlash and Renewal 193
  • Chapter 9 - Civil Society Groundwork 216
  • Chapter 10 - Recuperating the Built Environment 235
  • Chapter 11 - Cultural Re-Education 260
  • Chapter 12 - Reversible Destiny 290
  • Notes 305
  • References 317
  • Index 331
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