A true crime story: the role of space, time, and identity in narrating criminal authority

Norma Rossi*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article presents a theoretical and methodological argument for employing a narrative-based approach to explore criminal organisations’ (COs) claims to political authority, accompanied by an empirical example. International Relations scholarship is increasingly interested in the role narratives play in political meaning-making processes, with violent non-state actors (VNSAs) beginning to occupy a central space in such investigations. This work has contributed important insights into how VNSAs, such as terrorists and insurgents, mobilise narratives to challenge state authority. However, this literature still needs to take stock of groups that do not directly challenge the state but rather live within it. Drawing on Mikhail Bakhtin’s literary theory and using the Sicilian Mafia as a case study, I show that COs exercise and construct their narratives of political authority by reappropriating the state’s key constitutive narratives of space, time, and identity. By reflecting the same form of (statist) political imagination via alternative spatial, temporal, and identity configurations, these groups simultaneously reject and reproduce modern articulations of political authority in their spatio-temporal and identity dimensions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of International Security
VolumeFirst View
Early online date22 Dec 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Dec 2023


  • Methodology
  • Narratives
  • Organised crime
  • Political authority
  • Violent non-state actors


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