Accepted Paper:

Mafia Capitale and the ambiguous discourse on criminality in Rome  

Author:

Stefano Portelli (University of Leicester)

Paper short abstract:

The scandal of "Mafia Capitale" in Rome unleashed discourses on criminality and corruption whose impact was different in each local context. Their ambiguities are more evident if observed from the district of Ostia, the only part of the city that was officially declared "mafioso."

Paper long abstract:

In November, 2014, a police inquiry discovered a huge network of corruption centered on the City Council of Rome, that led to the arrest of over 100 local politicians, and ultimately to the decay of the mayor. The inquiry, dubbed "Mafia Capitale" by the press, unveiled publicly the "secret of Pulcinella" of the presence of criminal networks in the Italian capital, but also fostered a semantic extension of the term "mafia" involving representations of Rome as a hopeless tangle of corruption and personal interests rooted in widespread everyday behaviors. Such essentialisms, ultimately covering up real criminal activities, are widely studied in the Italian South; but the contemporary discourses about Mafia in Rome deserve more specific ethnographic attention.

I propose a reflection based on ongoing observation of Ostia, coastal suburb of Rome, which received waves of immigrants and Romans "evicted from eternity". In 2015 it was put under a temporary receivership for the alleged presence of "mafias". I focus on two sectors, Nuova Ostia (where 10,000 slum dwellers were relocated in 1974) and Idroscalo (spontaneous settlement threatened of demolition, setting of Pasolini's murder in 1975). Forced displacement might have increased the dependency on criminal networks; but residents claim now that discourses on "mafia" are used to justify arbitrary evictions and new episodes of displacement. Analysis of these discourses and of the reactions they elicit on the ground, can shed light on the contradictions of the antimafia, on its possible manipulations, and on its consequences in vulnerable local contexts.

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