La questione delle origini: mafia, camorra e storia d’Italia

Autore: Francesco Benigno
In: Meridiana. 87
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The question of the origins: the mafia, the camorra and the history of Italy

This article addresses in a new way the question of the origins of the Italian organized crime. In keeping with recent trends which emphasise a cultural approach to the history of crime, it aims to analyse what was written about the mafia and camorra during the first twenty years of the Kingdom of Italy (1861-1880). Analysing the texts then produced about organized crime it emphasizes the need to study these writings for themselves and in isolation from what would later be written: this approach avoids the anachronism of seeing the visions of the mafia and camorra developed in these discourses as mere premises and antecedents of the twentieth-century criminal organisation that we know. The intention here is to restore the semantic polyvalence of the contexts in which these thoughts were expressed and, in particular, to restore public order as the fundamental point of reference of their discursive register seen essentially in the political sphere. From these writings, there emerges a concept of public order which, rather than being protecting civil society from the threats of organised crime, was seen as defending the established political order from threats of subversion. Such an investigation is only made possible by linking the basically literary imaginaire of the time to the political struggle and to the theory and practice of the courts, of the police and of forensic medicine which defined crime in public discourse.

Keywords: Organized crime; History of Mafia and Camorra; Kingdom of Italy.