Behaviour Codes in Sicily. Bypassing the Law

Anton Blok


Focused on oral culture in western Sicily, this paper explores informal behaviour codes in their interaction with formal law. State-formation in Italy left people in peripheral areas to forge strategies of self-help and negotiate support from patrons (called "friends"). Ironically, the very networks of clientelism and their attendant behaviour codes further weakened the state’s control over its southern periphery and hindered its economic integration into the national and international economy – which in turn reinforced the impact of informal codes and practices on the working of formal law. The Sicilian case provides an example of the periphery as a locus of innovation.


oral culture; friendship; patronage; self help; periphery