Gangsters and Statesmen: Organised Crime, Governance and Nationalism in Torn States

How does organised crime operate in separatist zones? I propose a typology of mafias in torn states in three regions: fourteen countries with separatist movements (four in West Africa, five in the Middle East, and five in East Europe) from 1990-2020. In these cases, I argue, territorial consolidation was vitally moulded by organised criminal agency. I stipulate two dimensions of variation: some mafias are more embedded in the state apparatus (state-dependent) than others, and some mafias are more ethnocentric (partisan) than others.

Regarding state-dependence, I differentiate between organised crime that is largely controlled – often created – by host state institutions, and organised crime that largely operates autonomously. Regarding partisanship, I differentiate between mafias that are highly ethnocentric, and those that are less so. The resulting two-by-two typology includes “Mafias in Uniform” (partisan and statedependent), “Rebel Mafias” (partisan and independent), “Menderbender Mafias” (impartial and state-dependent), and “Cosmopolitan Mafias” (impartial and independent). Limitations and nuances included, this typology can illuminate torn states globally and clarify the extant, often vague, literature on organised criminal impact in weak/failing/fractured states.

About the speaker

Danilo Mandić is an Associate Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Center Associate at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and Faculty Associate at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, all at Harvard University. His work reconceptualises today’s nation-state formation as a process driven by transnational mafias, and also explores how gangsters, refugees and other stigmatised people are formative social actors in contemporary nationalism, border politics, and collective violence.

In 2022, his first book, ‘Gangsters and Other Statesmen’, received the Mirra Komarovsky Best Book Award and the Best Book Award from the American Sociological Association’s Peace, War, and Social Conflict Section. His book ‘The Syrian Refugee Crisis’ is forthcoming in 2023. Danilo is currently investigating IDPs from the war in Ukraine, during which he conducted on-the-ground research near the frontline. Danilo holds a BA from Princeton University and a PhD from Harvard University.