The cultural production of violence among Mafiosi
Peter Schneider (Fordham University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper will explore a range of motivations for apparently banal acts of violence associated with organized crime, taking into account the collective dynamics of fraternal mafia sodalities.
Paper long abstract:
Calderone (in Arlacchi 1993: 159-160) reports that capomafia Stefano Bontade showed up late for an important meeting. Stepping out of his Porsche Carrera, he asked the others to forgive him for his lateness saying, "I had to change a flat tire, and I had to strangle (inchiaccare) Stefano Giaconia". Michele Greco, present at the meeting, approved, saying that Bontade had done well to get rid of this scum, after which Bontade added, "that cornuto (cuckold) gave me trouble right up to the end. After I killed him, we set his clothes on fire, and while they were burning there was an explosion. It was the bullet in a pen-pistol, caliber 22, that Giaconia carried with him." Someone present made the ironic comment that Giaconia was quite a man of honor, still able to shoot from the grave! The apparent banality of mafia-related violence is the subject of this proposed paper. Based on ethnographic field work in Sicily, trial proceedings in Palermo and New York, and "justice collaborator" (pentito) depositions, I will explore a range of motivations for acts of violence associated with organized crime, taking into account the collective dynamics of fraternal sodalities such as the mafia cosca, the exclusive "moral hothouse" that insulates and promotes criminal/deviant cultural practices, and the role of emotions - among them, excitement and self-actualization - argued by Katz (1988) and others to play an under-appreciated role in crime.