Departures Podcast featuring Danilo Mandić, author of ‘Gangsters and Other Statesmen’

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When we think of networks of organized crime, we tend to place them in their own category, occupying an “underworld” of its own rules separate from the norms and laws that guide our states operate in societies.

In his new book, “Gangsters and Other Statesmen: Mafias, Separatists, and Torn States in a Globalized World,” Danilo Mandić, a political sociologist at Harvard, challenges this assumption and points to numerous examples of crime and criminal networks being interwoven and overlaid on numerous governments and separatist movements, which of course often has a major impact in terms of how these states are formed, how peace is brokered in conflicts, and how national identity is formed.

Mandić’s book presents fascinating first-hand field research from some of the world’s most contested regions, including disputed territories of Kosovo and South Ossetia, where he was interviewed mobsters, separatists, and policymakers along major smuggling routes. In this interview with Robert Amsterdam, Mandić discusses how often mainstream academic discourse has ignored the influential role of non-state actors in the criminal world, and argues that these groups can be a fateful determinant of state capacity, separatist success, and ethnic conflict.