- The Story-Takers: Public Pedagogy, Transitional Justice, and Italy's Non-Violent Protest against the Mafia by Paula M. Salvio
The Story-Takers by Paula Salvio is an essay on public pedagogy and transitional justice that uses as its organizing principle a series of anti-mafia moments taken from the past half-century. I use "moment" in a rhetorical sense rather than chronological in that each of Salvio's moments has its own history of years-long duration. What they all have in common is their organization around what we might call, following Helmut Walser Smith, the vanishing point of post-World War II mafia history – namely, the spectacular assassination by remote-control explosives of Giovanni Falcone, Francesca Morvillo, Rocco Dicillo, Antonio Montinaro, and Vito Schifani on 23 May 1992 as they passed through Capaci on their way from the airport to Palermo. Falcone, of course, was a member – probably, the best known – of the anti-mafia pool that had brought hundreds of mafiosi to justice in the maxi-trial of [End Page 205] 1986–87 and so a living symbol of the fight against the mafia. Morvillo, Falcone's wife, was also a Palermo magistrate. The other three were part of the detail assigned to protect the couple in their presumably secret movements, primarily back and forth between Rome, where Falcone at that time held an important position in the Ministry of Justice, and Palermo.
Salvio's study explores six of these moments. Two are backward looking or nostalgic and derive immediately from that vanishing point – namely, the "Falcone tree" that became a spontaneous shrine outside Falcone and Morvillo's home and on which hundreds of personal statements of sadness, recollection, hope, and solidarity were attached and a Facebook page dedicated to the memory of Morvillo where Salvio traces the subordination of Morvillo's own anti-mafia credentials in favour of her identity as the martyred wife. Two others moments are anti-mafia movements that would probably have been unimaginable before the killing of Falcone and the others. Addiopizzo is a Palermo-based association of shopkeepers founded in 2004 with the commitment to refuse paying protection money (the pizzo) to the mafia. It traces its origin to the murder of a courageous Palermo mattress manufacturer who was shot dead nine months before the Capaci bombing. Corleone Dialogos is a movement of young citizen journalists who since 2002 have sought to create new images of Corleone, an agro-town south of Palermo that was once home to the bloodiest of mafia cosche and the birthplace chosen by Mario Puzo for the most famous of cinematic mafia bosses. Finally, Salvio looks at the work of two photographers, Letizia Battaglia and Franco Zecchin, who worked in Palermo documenting mafiosi and mafia killings during the bloody 1970s and 1980s. Those images continued to resonate after 1992 and indeed took on new importance. Notably, Battaglia stopped doing mafia work after the 1992 killings.
Salvio's primary goal in this work is to argue that story taking – "using narrative and visual representations to portray events we may be inclined to turn away from or to disavow" – in the various examples she explores serves the purpose of transitional justice, defined as "a set of judicial and nonjudicial measures that have been implemented by different countries in order to redress legacies of massive human rights abuses." We are dealing then with what some (for example, Peter Dale Scott) have referred to as society-level psychological denial, and the best-known examples of transitional justice are surely the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions set up to address the human rights abuses of apartheid South Africa and other regimes. Salvio insists instead that a society does not need to have survived trauma in order to engage in transitional justice; her examples all document story taking that proceeds in a context of enduring trauma as the mafia continues to operate in Palermo (and elsewhere) to the present day.
Salvio takes each of her examples as a starting point for...