Document Type

Honors Paper

Publication Date

Spring 5-1-2008

Abstract

In discussions about Sicily, one often hears how culturally different the region is from the rest of Italy. “We’re not Italian,” Sicilians love to say. “We’re Sicilian.” Indeed, the island has its own government, its own dialect, and, many say, its own mentality. It also has the aspect for which it is perhaps best known: its mafia, Cosa Nostra. That the Sicilian mafia has a tremendous impact on island life has long been established. Through extortion, political corruption and murder, the deeply rooted criminal organization has written its presence in bold. The strong antimafia sentiment that has developed in response to it, however, has only recently been acknowledged for the immense cultural and social impact it has begun to have. Only in the past few decades, to be sure, has the antimafia matured into an organized, nationwide movement based on solid understandings of mafia methods and structure. With increasing influence unlike anything known until recent years, the movement has made significant defeats against the mafia and the broad public resignation that allows it to flourish, instilling the important notion that criminality must no longer be passively accepted. With few exceptions, past antimafia scholarship has focused only on what the movement has done – its individual accomplishments and myriad setbacks – without recognizing what it is doing. Such a narrow focus, that is to say, has excluded wider discourse on the effect Cosa Nostra and the antimafia are having on broader national unity. This thesis sets out, therefore, to provide a new, deeper examination of the mafia and antimafia’s dialectical interplay, and the increasingly significant impact that the latter is having on the cultural and ideological connection between Sicily and the rest of Italy. Through an analysis of personal interviews, newspaper and journal articles, anthropological studies, political essays and films, it reviews Sicily’s historical relationship with the mainland and considers the fundamentals of Cosa Nostra operations and control. It expounds the significance of important antimafia prosecutions in the 1980s and 1990s, and illustrates their impact in sparking a more potent antimafia movement nationwide. Finally, it looks at the movement’s successes and failures across Italy, especially in recent months and years, and demonstrates how the spread of antimafia sentiment has allowed for a new, gradual national unity that early attempts at forced assimilation were never able to provide. Cosa Nostra, it concludes, has colored the lens through which Sicilian culture is considered, and the antimafia movement born in response is emblematic of increasingly apparent common national values.

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The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.