The idea of a religious Cosa Nostra might seem to be a contradiction, yet religious symbolism and behaviour are strikingly apparent throughout the history of the organization. Recent studies have described this phenomenon from several different perspectives (Sales, 2010; Cavadi, 2009; Dino, 2006) however, there have been fewer attempts to consider language and behaviour as a specific context in which to analyse religious references. The object of my research is to describe the role that religion plays at micro and macro-social level of interaction between the mafia leaders and the lower echelons of the organization. In particular, it refers to approaches which emphasize the role of rituality and performativity in constituting social structure and identity, to explore the effects that the religious language and behaviour of the mafia bosses have on the rest of the organization. This presentation focuses on the religious symbolism and rituals that characterize the initiation ceremony of the Sicilian mafia to analyze the effects that it has on the initiates. The methodology mainly employs anthropological approaches to ritual (Van Gennep 1909; Turner 1969, 1974), sociological theories of religion (Durkheim 1961) and Cultural Performance theories (Turner, 1986; Schechner, 2002) as its theoretical framework. The data are derived from judicial papers and the testimonies of mafia defectors. Such an approach could prove particularly useful in the study of the cultural universe of the mafia and, above all, it could provide a better understanding of the enduring ability of Cosa Nostra to adapt to changing times whilst maintaining consistent 'moral' codes and practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-70
JournalInternational Journal of the Humanities
Volume9
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2012
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