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Reversible Destiny

Reversible Destiny: Mafia, Antimafia, and the Struggle for Palermo

Jane C. Schneider
Peter T. Schneider
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Reversible Destiny
    Book Description:

    Reversible Destinytraces the history of the Sicilian mafia to its nineteenth-century roots and examines its late twentieth-century involvement in urban real estate and construction as well as drugs. Based on research in the regional capital of Palermo, this book suggests lessons regarding secretive organized crime: its capacity to reproduce a subculture of violence through time, its acquisition of a dense connective web of political and financial protectors during the Cold War era, and the sad reality that repressing it easily risks harming vulnerable people and communities. Charting the efforts of both the judiciary and a citizen's social movement to reverse the mafia's economic, political, and cultural power, the authors establish a framework for understanding both the difficulties and the accomplishments of Sicily's multifaceted antimafia efforts.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92949-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  5. Maps
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  6. CHAPTER 1 The Palermo Crucible
    (pp. 1-21)

    The Piazza Marina is situated behind a row of antiquepalazzifacing the gulf in Palermo’s historic center. In the middle is an acre of garden called the Villa Garibaldi, which is surrounded by a handsome Art Nouveau, wrought iron fence depicting animals of the hunt. A giganticFicus magnoloidestree dominates one quadrant of the garden, each enormous branch sending shoots to the ground like elephants’ trunks, creating a labyrinth of arched chambers underneath. The Piazza Marina was the center of elegance in eighteenth-and early nineteenth-century Palermo. Here men and women of baronial and princely pedigree gathered nightly, clothes...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Genesis of the Mafia
    (pp. 22-48)

    To place the article “the” before the word “mafia,” as in “The Genesis of the Mafia,” is to risk attributing a misplaced concreteness to an elusive phenomenon. There is, however, another risk that must also be considered: underestimating the institutional energy and coherence of Sicilian organized crime. This does not mean that the mafia is an age-old institution. There is a growing historiography of mafia formation, all of which points to a relatively shallow time frame. The mafia dates to the second half of the nineteenth century, when it emerged out of the “transition” from feudalism to capitalism in (especially...

  8. CHAPTER 3 The Mafia and the Cold War
    (pp. 49-80)

    Many people are convinced that, once suppressed by Mussolini’s “Iron Prefect,” Mori, the mafia was then given the kiss of life by the Allied military authorities during their seven-month occupation of Sicily in the period 1943–44. One vivid detail has long been emblematic of this scenario: that American intelligence agents, after negotiating with New York (and Sicilian) mobster Lucky Luciano, dropped a yellow silk foulard bearing Luciano’s monogram from a plane flying over the small rural town of Villalba, signaling the onset of the Allied invasion. Surrounded by latifundia, Villalba was the home of the charismatic capo-mafia Don Calogero...

  9. CHAPTER 4 The Cultural Production of Violence
    (pp. 81-102)

    “In a world as complicated as the Cosa Nostra’s,”pentitoCalderone has said, “even small wrongs are remembered for years and there are thousands of tangled relationships; . . . grounds for suspicion and [sinister] hypotheses are never lacking” (in Arlacchi 1993: 62). A mafioso sometimes murders a fellow cosca member out of fear that the other person could—and therefore might—betray him. Sometimes the victim is done in after a convivial meal, a scenario that Calderone likens to the Last Supper (see ibid.: 135). In such an atmosphere, participants in the plot have every reason to “suspect each...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Seeking Causes, Casting Blame
    (pp. 103-126)

    Perhaps the most difficult and intriguing question about the Sicilian mafia is how, given the gross behaviors that set it apart from normal society, it became so thoroughly intertwined with elements of that society. A first approximation hinges on an argument one often hears debated by antimafia activists: that killers on the scale of Giovanni Brusca are an outgrowth of the “long 1980s,” when the mafia was distorted by trafficking in drugs. Although many concede this point, they are quick to add that the older, “traditional” mafia—the agrarian mafia even—was also capable of much brutality. The disturbingly gruesome...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Mysteries and Poisons
    (pp. 127-159)

    Just as the “long 1980s” became a crucible of violence, it also framed an intensified police-judicial crackdown on the mafia, the highpoint of which was the maxi-trial, known colloquially as the maxi, which began in February 1986 and lasted until December 1987. During this period, sometimes called the PalermoPrimavera,or Spring, Sicilian prosecutors indicted 475 mafiosi, trying 460 of them in a bunker courthouse specially constructed for this purpose inside the walls of the Ucciardone, the city’s massive nineteenth-century Bourbon prison. Most were convicted, and, to the surprise of many, the convictions were upheld several years later, in 1992,...

  12. CHAPTER 7 The Antimafia Movement
    (pp. 160-192)

    Caught in the cross-fire of the civil liberties campaign, criticized for politicizing their investigations, and shaken by the anonymous acts of the moles among their colleagues, the police and magistrates needed the support of mobilized citizens and citizens’ organizations. Emerging as a predominantly urban social movement after the killing of dalla Chiesa in September 1982, by the mid-1980s, such a social force had achieved a political presence in its center of greatest strength, Palermo. Here Leoluca Orlando, a charismatic antimafia politician (of Christian Democratic provenance) served as mayor from 1985 until 1990, and again from 1993 until December 2000. With...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Backlash and Renewal
    (pp. 193-215)

    The efforts of law enforcement to suppress the mafia and the antimafia social movement both fell upon rough times in the second half of the 1980s. To pursue Orlando’s metaphor of the Sicilian cart, sticks were thrown into the spokes of both wheels. In part the difficulties arose from internal tensions—the jealousies and treachery within theSquadra Mobileand courthouse, and the factionalism that divided the grassroots activists from the people around Orlando and theCoordinamentoAntimafia.In part they were the consequence of great uncertainty, exacerbated by the sure knowledge that, despite the slower pace of mafia killings,...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Civil Society Groundwork
    (pp. 216-234)

    To describe how mafiosi condition and provision the society around them, we borrowed Calderone’s metaphor of spiders spinning their webs. From an antimafia perspective, the operative metaphor for rendering society more “civil” is “capillary action.” In an effort to chart such action, the present chapter begins with an overview of the core antimafia values, then examines how antimafia reformers attempt to realize these values in the micro-practices of their own everyday lives.

    Calling for democracy and transparency, antimafia reformers broadly embrace what Richard Maddox (n. d.) has called “progressive cosmopolitanism”—a loose set of universalizing values that include gender equality,...

  15. CHAPTER 10 Recuperating the Built Environment
    (pp. 235-259)

    Nothing better illustrates the hopes of the antimafia movement than its commitment to the recuperation of Palermo city, undoing the “savage” expansion of the periphery and shameful neglect of the historic core. From the first burst of activism in the early 1980s, the city’s renewal has been a movement priority, both an emblem of the desired cultural changes and a test of the extent to which they are progressing. The recuperation of historical architecture in the old city center and the development of a wider urban plan anchor the rhetoric of “reversible destiny,” pointing at once to physical and symbolic...

  16. CHAPTER 11 “Cultural Re-education”
    (pp. 260-289)

    From the first phase of the police-judicial crackdown on the mafia, the schools, in particular, were viewed as a vital point of intervention. Both dalla Chiesa and Chinnici pinned their hopes for a reborn Sicily on the as yet unformed generations; Caselli tirelessly spoke to school assemblies—about the role of thepentiti,for example (see fig. 20). Beyond this, educators have made a considerable investment in guiding children to discover their rights as citizens. By such means, the world capital of the mafia is struggling to become the world capital of the antimafia, its past of moral degradation, and...

  17. CHAPTER 12 Reversible Destiny
    (pp. 290-304)

    Four elements underlie the possibility that a mafia-infused Sicilian “destiny” could be reversed. First, the mafia is not derived from any “deep” history—some would say “culture”—of Sicily, but rather had its origins in nineteenth-century processes of state and market formation. Second, the modernization of Sicily after World War II brought with it an expanding urban and educated middle class, some constituencies of which have supported an antimafia social movement, a revitalized police-judicial campaign against organized crime, and a reform government in Palermo, the regional capital. Third, the leaders of these developments are engaged in a serious effort to...

  18. Notes
    (pp. 305-316)
  19. References
    (pp. 317-330)
  20. Index
    (pp. 331-339)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 340-340)