‘Like ants’: The Mafia’s Necropolitics as a Paradigm of Nihilistic Violence

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The aim of this chapter is to develop the claim that the cultural meaning of the Mafia’s violence is intrinsically nihilistic. I will attempt to show how the violent annihilation practiced by the Mafia can be situated in the field of nihilism, as a cultural phenomenon. I begin with the presentation of a back story, useful for approaching the semantics of violence and nihilism at work throughout the Mafia’s history. Second, I summarize the forms of nihilism to which I will be erring in this chapter, and, thirdly, I sketch a short history of the Sicilian Mafia. Drawing on Foucault’s conception of power and Mbembe’s notion of necropolitics, I then attempt to identify the Mafia’s semantics of power as a paradigm of those forms of violence and power that are hidden by traditional conceptions of western power - in particular, forms of violence that are characteristic of colonial and postcolonial contexts. Finally, through literary, cinematographic and historical examples, I examine the connections between the Mafia’s symbolic semantics of violence and the emergence of nihilistic forms of power. The main hypothesis of the chapter is that studying the Mafia’s paradigm gives us an understanding of the contemporary compromises between illegal and legal powers.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationViolence and Nihilism
EditorsLuís Aguiar de Sousa, Paolo Stellino
Place of PublicationBerlin, Boston
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9783110699210
ISBN (Print)9783110698954
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


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