Mafiacraft, witchcraft, statecraft, or the politics of mafia knowledge and the knowledge of mafia politics

Marco Santoro


While praising Deborah Puccio-Den’s proposal for its invitation to a more reflexive kind of mafia studies, capable of addressing epistemological and even ontological issues typically assumed but rarely dealt with in the literature, I suggest developing her “mafiacraft” framework along two research lines: (1) a focus on the “craft” dimension of the “mafia” and of mafiosi as engaged in work activities and embedded in (even) a (moral) division of labor; (2) adding “statecraft” to the pair mafiacraft/witchcraft in order to bring to light the political roots of the “mafia” as both a “state effect” and an instance of elementary forms of political organization paradoxically flowering inside the formal apparatus of the (Western and “modern”) state. Finally, I make a plea for a definitive recognition of the cognitive difficulties in making sense of the “mafia” as an integral part of the same phenomenon, of its semantic field, not dissimilar from other “native” terms that have entered the Western lexicon, such as “mana” and “potlatch.”


mafia, craft, skilled labor, statecraft, state, politics, political ontology

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/707726