Mediterranean Exotica and the Mafia “Other” or Problems of Representation in Pitrè's Texts

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Essay Excerpt

The most usual mistake made regarding Sicily is that it is a little island, peopled by Italians... and it is full of Italians, in the sense that they are Italian subjects. But by heredity, by instinct, by everything that pertains to racial culture and development, they are far from being Italians yet. [Riggs 1925(1912):ii]

In Vistas in Italy, a travel book published in 1912, an American tourist savoring refreshments on a stone promenade in Taormina, "high above the blue African Mediterranean" (Riggs 1925[1912]:7), made this less than flattering observation about the land and people he was about to "discover." Setting the scene for his conquests, he pondered the nature of Sicily and Sicilians, with "the peaks of the Dark Continent faintly suggesting themselves through the mists of the horizon" (Riggs 1925[1912]:7). This is quite odd, because Africa - even on the clearest day - is not visible from Sicily. It did, however, establish a suggestive perspective from which to write about Sicilians. In the same year, Giuseppe Pitre (1841-1916), a Palermo physician and Sicily's best-known folklorist, finished the 25th and last volume of his massive opus, Biblioteca delle Tradizioni Popolari Siciliane (1870-1913). This work, described as "the history of the humble, the nameless, and the forgotten" (Cocchiara 1951:148-149), is still regarded as an invaluable source of raw data about Sicilian culture. The link between these two nonfictional genres is not gratuitous, however, because similar themes run through and render coherent both works (306).

Triolo, Nancy. "Mediterranean Exotica and the Mafia “Other” or Problems of Representation in Pitrè's Texts." Cultural Anthropology 8.3(1993): 306–316.

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