“Mafiacraft” and mafia activity: A dynamic and changing interaction

Jane Schneider


Deborah Puccio-Den has conducted ethnographic research in Palermo since the mid-1990s, focusing on efforts to criminalize the mafia, both on the part of the criminal justice system, and also by ordinary citizens, among them photographers, artists, writers, social scientists, journalists, and antimafia activists. She proposes the word “mafiacraft” to conceptualize this process, evoking anthropological analyses of efforts to criminalize witches. The analogy dramatizes how much violence has occurred in modern Sicily without either prosecutors or morally sensitive Sicilians being able to identify, much less agree upon, those responsible. Puccio-Den acknowledges that “historical and political conditions” influence turning points in the ability of both sets of actors to concretize responsibility (“responsibilize,” as she puts it). Because the author does not touch on these conditions, I have taken the liberty to elaborate on two that I consider crucial: Sicily’s postwar struggle for agrarian reform, and the island’s becoming a hub for heroin trafficking to the United States in the “long 1980s.”


mafia, crime, criminalization, responsibility, agrarian reform, drug trafficking

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/706545