Accepted Paper:

'I can feel the mafia but I can't see it': the anthropological imagination of criminal justice magistrates in western Sicily  

Author:

Naor Ben-Yehoyada (Columbia University)

Paper short abstract:

Antimafia investigations are as old as the Sicilian Mafia itself, but the debate about what the Mafia is remains unresolved. The paper follows this conundrum from the Palermo maxitrial to current magistrates’ and investigators’ dilemmas and conceptions in the province of Trapani.

Paper long abstract:

Antimafia investigations are as old as the Sicilian Mafia itself - both date to as early as the mid-nineteenth century. Nevertheless, the debate about what the Mafia is, let alone how to fight it, has remained unresolved to this day. The current shape of Antimafia criminal justice formed around the maxi-trial of Palermo from the mid-1980 to the early 199s. During those years, successful investigation, prosecution, and conviction of leading mafiosi relied on a forensic paradigm that constructed the mafia as a hierarchical and unitary criminal organization, according to which "everything is connected" in the intersection of politics, economy, and social relations.

The paper follows the trajectory of this forensic paradigm from the Palermo maxi-trial to present-day magistrates and investigators in the province of Trapani. I discuss their dilemmas regarding the social, political and economic thread of the object of their investigation. This conundrum embeds magistrates' investigations in the struggle over the relationship between state institutions, organized crime, culture, and society. By studying the latest reemergence of this conundrum, I analyse the role of forensic evidence and anthropological imagination in constituting the relationship between state and society. Specifically, I examine how changing conceptions of the morality of social relations - reciprocal, redistributive, and exchange-based - shape judicial and public deployments of concepts of justice as well as demands on the state to act as a moral agent representing the entire community.

Panel P049
What are we talking about when we talk about the Mafia? Futures of a contested term