Sicily is the place where Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian mafia, was born. However, Sicily is also the place where courageous Sicilian antimafia activists unyieldingly resisted the Mafia and paid their resistance with their lives. The antimafia organisations have been growing both at the local and national level in their fight against the mafia in the last twenty years. Thanks to these rebellious attempts, many mafiosi lost their traditional authority and notorious power. Yet the Mafia is still strong and there are still uncovered factors to explain how different actors struggle to destroy the Mafia in the contested political, social, legal, and cultural landscape of Sicily. Dr Baris Cayli endeavours to unveil these factors and, in doing so, enlighten the universal codes of human resistance when societal shifts leave their mark on troubled territories and collective memory dramatically.

Image I: Italian students being educated by anti-mafia activists in the memorial square in Palermo dedicated to the judges, police officers and politicians who were murdered by the Mafia. (Source: Dr. Cayli)


This is a long ethnographic research project that Dr Cayli has been conducting since 2009. The main objective is to uncover the hope, fear, and unyielding resistance of Sicilians who have witnessed violence, bloodshed, and injustice for so long. Their experience of cultural trauma and their long struggle against the Mafia carry a universal meaning and share a common ground with other people who strive for a positive change in traumatic social geographies across the world. For this aim, Dr Cayli explores community intervention and cultural activism shaping both the public understanding of the Mafia and transforming the lives of people through social protests, debates, art, cultural and commemorative activities, artistic performance, and education.

There are three main objectives of this interdisciplinary study:

(i): to build a novel sociological theory of cultural manifestation by connecting art and society through community intervention.

(iii): to provide policy instruments so an effective approach can be developed to tackle crime and social exclusion by bringing the role of cultural activities to the front.

(iv): to examine the process of cultural manifestation in a traumatic social geography and to evaluate the broad impact of cultural manifestation on the lives of local people.

Image II: The Mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlanda, gives a speech for the commemoration of Claudio Domino who was murdered by the Mafia on October 7, 1986. Graziella Accetta (mother) and Antonio Domino (father) stand next to the Mayor. (Source: Dr Cayli).


This project has been funded by a number of organisations since 2009:

(i): Sos Impresa (Italy)

(ii): University of Camerino (Italy)

(iii): The European Council

(iv): University of Stirling (UK)

(v): University of Derby (UK)


Cayli B (2017) "Victims and protest in a social space: Revisiting the sociology of emotions" Emotion, Space and Society, 22(1): 61-70.

Cayli B (2014) "Renewing Criminalized and Hegemonic Cultural Landscapes" Critical Criminology, 22(4): 579-593.

Cayli B (2013) "Using Sports against the Italian Mafia: Policies and Challenges on the Path of Cultural Renewal" Sociology of Sport Journal, 30(4): 435-466.

Cayli B (2013) "Creating Counterpublics against the Italian Mafia: Cultural Conquerors of Web-Based Media" Javnost-the Public, 20(3): 59-76.

Cayli B (2013) "Italian civil society against the Mafia: From perceptions to expectations" International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice, 41(1): 81-99.

Cayli B (2012) "Resistance against the Mafia: A Civic Struggle to Defy an Uncontestable Power" Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, 21(1):103-125.


Dr Cayli cooperates with activists affiliated with a number of leading organisations in this area:

(i): Centro studi Paolo e Rita Borsellino

(ii): Centro Pio La Torre

(iii): Lìbera. Associazioni, nomi e numeri contro le mafie

(iv): La Fondazione Giovanni e Francesca Falcone

(v): Addiopizzo

(vi): NoMafia Memorial

(vii): Musei dei pupi antimafia

(viii): NOMA

(ix): Fondazione Giuseppe Fava


  • Young people who organise cultural activities to resist against the Mafia, commemorate mafia victims, and sow the seeds for a new form of cultural generation

  • Local communities, particularly people who live in the neighbourhoods where the Mafia retains strong power, poverty is rife, school attendance is low, and social mobility is limited

  • Civil society organisations whose activists work against the destruction of the Mafia and mafiosi culture

  • Law-enforcement agencies i.e the police, the judiciary, and social rehabilitation centres

  • Public institutions: the municipality and the schools

  • Cultural industries and museums that host and organise contemporary cultural artefacts and cultural events

  • Law makers: The Sicilian and the Italian parliament; the antimafia commission that works against the prevention of mafia