Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Danilo Mandić's "Gangsters and Other Statesmen"

Danilo Mandić is a Postdoctoral College Fellow in the Department of Sociology, where he lectures on war, forced migration, political sociology and research methods. His research focuses on social movements, nationalism, ethnic relations, civil war and organized crime. He is interested in conceptualizing organized crime as a neglected non-state actor and in understanding the interrelations of states, social movements and illicit flows of people, goods and ideas in regions with separatist disputes.

Mandić applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Gangsters and Other Statesmen: Mafias, Separatists, and Torn States in a Globalized World, and reported the following:
Indeed, page 99 [inset, below left; click to enlarge] is a good page to illustrate the book's themes. It is about the notorious "Yellow House," a site of an organ trafficking ring run by criminal elements within the Kosovo Liberation Army, a separatist movement in the Balkans. Victims were brought to the cottage, their organs were taken out and transported via an elaborate route across the mountains to an airport on their way to Turkey. My book explores how mafias - like the one conducting this organ harvesting - are embedded not just in local communities and cultures, but in the violent ethnic politics that disrupts many regions of the world. Rribe, this village in northern Albania, is a perfect illustration of this. Underlying every successful organized criminal racket is a set of connections - kinship, friendship, tribal, clan, ethnic, etc. - within local communities. Many localities around the world operate on the kinds of fear and coercion that residents of Rribe experienced because their village was terrorized by gangsters.

The "page 99 test" appears to work. Yet I cannot help but wonder if its widespread adoption will further feed into our aversion to long-form and dense prose? If we all start using this test, will our alienation from anything that takes time to read grow? Are we doomed to evaluate books not even by their cover, but by a randomly-selected snippet completely out of context? Would it perhaps have been better if my book had failed this test miserably by having an empty 99th page, leaving the reader no choice but to read the whole thing?
Learn more about Gangsters and Other Statesmen at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue