Speaking of Mafias… A Two Day Conference at the Calandra Institute

The Calandra Institute's conference this year is titled MAFIAs: Realities and Representations of Organized Crime. This gathering of international scholars will take place April 25-26, at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and at the Calandra Institute. Scholars of Italian-American history and culture will tackle the subject with all the intellectual rigor of various disciplinary insights (Leggi in Italiano)

On March 20, 1971, the New York Times ran the front-page headline “‘Godfather’ Film Won’t Mention Mafia.” The story reported that producer Al Ruddy of Paramount Pictures and Joe Colombo, founder of the Italian-American Civil Rights League, had agreed to strike the words mafia and Cosa Nostra from the script of the film The Godfather. This was a propitious deal of quid pro quo, for Colombo was the head of the Colombo crime family who had nefariously appropriated the role of Italian-American leader and spokesperson. 

In exchange for script censorship, the intimidation, theft, and violence that had plagued pre-production and production ceased, and mob-controlled labor unions began cooperating with the filming. In addition, gangsters were cast as bit players and extras, and subsequently Hollywood actors began socializing with the criminals off the set. This encounter between the realities and representations of organized crime contributed to the ongoing replication of refracted imagery in a media house of mirrors.

The theme of the Calandra Institute’s seventh annual conference is MAFIAs: Realities and Representations of Organized Crime, and the two-day event seeks to cover a broad variety of worldwide manifestations of organized crime. As the sole university research institute for Italian American studies, the Calandra Institute is uniquely positioned to address this topic of interest to specialists including criminologists and film historians, among others. Consequently, the Calandra Institute is partnering with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where Friday’s sessions will be held. 

Given the historical association of Italian Americans with organized crime in the United 
States, it behooves us as scholars of Italian-American history and culture to tackle this subject with all the intellectual rigor of our various disciplinary insights. As we know, organized crime is not unique to any one country or ethnic group but rather develops out of specific economic and social conditions across the globe at different historical moments. 

Thus, conference participants will speak on topics pertaining to Jewish and Polish American mobsters in the United States as well as organized crime in Colombia, India, Japan, Pakistan, and Sweden. The breadth of this conference program is in keeping with the Calandra Institute’s 2012 conference “Reimagining White Ethnicity: Expressivity, Identity, Race,” which sought a wider and deeper intellectual discourse across disciplinary fields. 

Those involved in Italy’s anti-mafia movement—a topic that will be discussed by a number 
of conference speakers—have inspired people worldwide with their courageous strategies 
for confronting the silence and acquiescence that have existed for too long around criminal activities of this nature. “MAFIAs,” the Calandra conference, is in keeping with that sentiment of resistance inasmuch as it aims to shine a light on heinous practices that many have chosen to willfully ignore.


*Joseph Sciorra is the Associate Director for Academic and Cultural Programs at the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, Queens College (City University of New York).


John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 524 West 59th Street, New York NY 10019
6:00–8:00 PM
Welcome & Reception, Room L.61, 1st Floor
ANTHONY JULIAN TAMBURRI, John D. Calandra Italian American Institute
ROBERT M. PIGNATELLO, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY
NATALIA QUINTAVALLE, Consulate General of Italy in New York


John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 524 West 59th Street, New York NY 10019
9:00–9:30 AM
Coffee & Pastries

9:30–10:45 AM
American Origins, Moot Court, 6th Floor
Chair: Robert Oppedisano, Editor 

New Orleans, the First Capital of the Sicilian Mafia in America, STEFANO 
VACCARA, La VOCE di New York

Organized Crime Groups in the U.S. (1890–1920): Home-grown or Italian 
, SIMON MAY, Coventry University

Searching for the Origins of Organized Crime in New York City, R. BRIAN 
FERGUSON, Rutgers University-Newark 

Re-imaging Mafia Narratives, Conference Room, 9th Floor
Chair: Rosangela briscese, John D. Calandra Italian American Institute 

Mafia Motifs in Andrea Camilleri’s Montalbano Novels, ADRIANA NICOLE 
CERAMI, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

A Misguided Approach to Combating the Mafia by the National Defense 
, GAETANO CIPOLLA, St. John’s University 

The Godfather, Media Excess, and Transhistorical Spectacle, MARY JO BONA, Stony brook University, SUNY and JOANNE RUVOLI, ball State University

11:00 AM–12:15 PM
Keynote: Mafia Emergence: What Kind of state?, Moot Court, 6th Floor
JANE SCHNEIDER, The Graduate Center, CUNY 

12:15–2:45 PM
Lunch on your own

1:30–2:45 PM
Where are the MAFIAS?, Moot Court, 6th Floor
Chair: Rebecca Rizzo, John D. Calandra Italian American Institute 

The Paradox of Organizing Organized Crime, AMIR ROSTAMI, Stockholm 

From Old to New Mafia: From “Cosa Nostra” to “Cosa Grigia,” GIACOMO DI 
GIROLAMO, Journalist

(Cyber) Extortion: An Assessment of the Enforcement Complications in Both 
Cyber and Physical Space
, WILFRED BEAYE, Temple University

Making and Unmaking the Mafia in American Media, Conference Room, 9th Floor
Chair: Donna Chirico, York College, CUNY 

Early Representations of Organized Crime and Issues of Identity in the 
Italian-American Press
 (1890s–1920s), MARINA CACIOPPO, University of 

Changing Perceptions: The Manufacturing and Maintaining of Philadelphia’s 
La Cosa Nostra History
, KELLY SLATER, Temple University 

An Examination of Mafia Spectatorship Phenomena from a Psychological 
 ANTHONY F. TASSO, Fairleigh Dickinson University 

3:00–4:15 PM
Race and the Gangster Poses, Moot Court, 6th Floor
Chair: Peter Vellon, Queens College, CUNY 

“There is no Mano Nera in North Beach!” Crime and Race in San Francisco’s 
, TOMMASO CAIAZZA, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice 

Black Caesar: Breaking into Business—At the Top, JOSEPH P. COSCO, Old Dominion University

Gangster Shtick, Ethnic Kitsch, and the Italian Americanization of College Basketball, JOHN GENNARI, University of Vermont 

Anti-pizzo, Anti-Mafia in Sicily, Conference Room, 9th Floor
Chair: Angelyn balodimas-bartolomei, North Park University 

Norms and Trust: Addiopizzo’s Mobilization of Entrepreneurs in Palermo
CARINA GUNNARSON, Uppsala University 

Standing Up to the Mob in Sicily: The Case of Capo D’Orlando, GIL FAGIANI, 
Italian American Writers Association

Social Media and Sicily’s Anti-Mafia Movement, GEORGE DE STEFANO, 
Independent Scholar

4:30–5:45 PM
Places of Illicit Powers, Moot Court, 6th Floor
Chair: George De Stefano, Independent Scholar 

Havana, Cuba, and Organized Crime in North America, PETER SCHNEIDER, 
Fordham University 

Camorra, from Cocaine to Power—The New Face of Organized Crime
GIUSEPPE COSTA, Stony brook University, SUNY 

Not Biting the Dust: Assessing the Properties and Success of India’s Sand 
, AUNSHUL REGE, Temple University

New Mafia Fiction: A Reading, Conference Room, 9th Floor
Chair: Fred Gardaphé, Queens College, CUNY 

When the Nightmare Comes: The Private Struggle Against Organized Crime

The Good Professor: Ten Years Working for the Outfit, FRED GARDAPHE', 
Queens College, CUNY


John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, 25 West 43rd Street, New York NY 10036
9:00–9:30 AM
Coffee & pastries

9:30–10:45 AM
From Chicago to Philadelphia and Back Again, Conference Room
Chair: Dominick Carielli, Brooklyn College, CUNY 

Polish-American Organized Crime in Chicago, JAMES S. PULA, Purdue 

The “Numbers Mafia” in Philadelphia: A Case Study of the Longevity of the 
Alliance between the Racket and Politics
, STEFANO LUCONI, University of 

Organized Crime in Chicago Heights: The Italian-American and Polish-American Experiences, LOUIS CORSINO, North Central College

Anti-MAFIAs Law Enforcement, La Galleria
Chair: Siân Gibby, John D. Calandra Italian American Institute 

The Japanese Yakuza—An Illegal Community as the “Other” Community
FRANK JACOB, Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf 

La Trattativa Stato-Mafia: An Historical view of the Italian State’s 
Connivance with Mafia Power,
 GIORGIO BONGIOVANNI, Antimafia Duemila 

11:00 AM–12:15 PM
Plenary: Pax Mafiosa or War?: Twenty years after the Palermo Massacres, Conference Room
Moderator: Anthony Julian Tamburri, John D. Calandra Italian American Institute 
Speaker: Vincenzo Scotti, President, Link University (Rome)
Respondent: Ottorino Capelli, University of Naples L’Orientale

Speaker: Vincenzo Scotti, President, Link University (Rome)
Respondent: Ottorino Capelli, University of Naples “L’Orientale”

12:15–2:45 PM
Lunch on your own

1:30–2:45 pM
The photographic Work of Letizia Battaglia and Franco Zecchin, Conference Room
Chair: Joseph Sciorra, John D. Calandra Italian American Institute

“An Unintended Archive”: Anti-Mafia Activism, Public Pedagogy, and the 
Civil Contract of Photography
, PAULA M. SALVIO, University of New Hampshire

Does the Mafia Exist? Anti-Mafia Photography and the Proof through 
, DEBORAH PUCCIO-DEN, French National Center for Scientific 

Discussants: AMY BOYLAN and PIERO GAROFALO, University of New 

3:00–4:15 PM
Sicilian Anti-Mafia: Education and Land Reform, Conference Room
Chair: Peter T. Schneider, Fordham University

From Bernardino Verro, Placido Rizzotto to Pio La Torre: The Anti-Mafia Fight 
for Land Reform and the Farm Cooperatives That Manifest Their Legacy,
ANTHONY FRAGOLA, University of North Carolina Greensboro 

Danilo Dolci’s Campaign against the Sicilian Mafia, LAWRENCE BALDASSARO, 
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Citizenship Education and Anti-Mafi a Initiatives: Empowering Italian Youth 
to Combat Organized Crime
Park University School of Education 

Multi-ethnicity in american Gangster Films, La Galleria
Chair: Dana Renga, The Ohio State University 

“For Nicky, Las Vegas was the Fucking Wild West”: Las Vegas as the Ultimate 
Frontier for the Diasporic Gangster
, CAMILLA DUBINI, University College 

“You give your loyalty to a Jew before your own blood?” Diasporic Difference 
in The Godfather Part II
, ROBERTA KLIMT, University College London

4:30–6:00 pM
Gender and Comparative Approaches to Media Depictions, Conference Room
Chair: Paula M. Salvio, University of New Hampshire 

Mafia biopics: Rosi’s Salvatore Giuliano and Wilson’s Al Capone, GIOVANNA 
DE LUCA, College of Charleston 

From Mafia Dolls to Drug Queens: Realities and Representations of 
Colombian Women in the Drug Cartels
, PATRICIA TOVAR, John Jay College, 

Michele Placido’s Romanzo Criminale: Mafia, Masculinity, Melodrama, DANA 
RENGA, The Ohio State University  

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