Join us for an interactive discussion to review the Sicilian Mafia. Together we will study Mafia from the inside out – including its hierarchical structure, recruitment process, internal modes and codes of behavior, as well as its economic activities.
The Mafia consists presently of about 170 clans, so-called cosche or families. These clans are concentrated mainly in Western Sicily, especially in the Province of Palermo. Each clan is hierarchically structured, with a capofamiglia (head of the family) on top, and each group acts autonomously. Only for the past 70 years or so, within the Mafia higher organization levels have developed – the most important is the cupola. During our conversation, our expert will further outline the approximately 5,000 uomini d’onore (men of honor) on the grass-root level, up to the powerful capo dei capi (boss of the bosses), who is the highest-ranking member of the cupola. Our conversation will also review the Mafia's recruitment process as well as its initiation ritual. This will be followed by a review of the "code of honor," which is the internal rules of behavior that all members are obliged to respect if they do not want to risk severe punishments.
To achieve its most important aim, namely, to make its members wealthy and powerful, the clans try to control their respective territories economically, politically, and socially. Our expert will demonstrate how the clans dominate the legal and illegal economy; further, in which sectors they were and are active. From here, it will be demonstrated that the power of the Mafia results from its direct affiliation with politicians. Politicians use the Mafia to reach their political aims, mainly to reach power positions, in exchange, they protect the criminals. Without political protection, which is the special characteristic of the Mafia, the Mafia would not exist and degenerate into normal criminality.
The widespread idea that the Mafia is mainly a cruel criminal organization is insofar a prejudice, as the clans try to avoid as much as possible brute violence. They prefer instead more peaceful methods, for example winning social consensus of the local population or – especially in the case of officials – corruption. But of course, the Mafia is violent too and has a wide range of violent means at its disposal.
The lecture is designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, together we will challenge existing prejudices about the mafia stereotypes and break down the real facts about this complex social organization.
For more on this topic, we invite you to explore The Sicilian Mafia: A Darker Side of Italian History with Dr. Anita Bestler
About Your Expert
Dr. Anita Bestler is an ethno-sociologist specialized in Mediterranean culture. German-born, she has been based in Palermo for upwards of 20 years writing guide books, working as a tourist guide, and doing research about the Mafia.
This conversation is suitable for all ages.
90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.
WOW!!! So much information in this excellent presentation. So interesting!
Everything you need to know about the mafia
This seminar was fascinating- we learned a lot from an expert
This conversation, along with Dr. Bestler's other one on the history of the Sicilian Mafia, is an excellent introduction to an often mythologized subject. She combines her enthusiasm for the subject with the thoroughness of a scholar, which results in a conversation that is both informative and accessible. Very highly recommended!