The Transformation of Female Roles in Cosa Nostra: A Diachronic and Comparative Analysis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The chapter examines the transformation of the roles of women in Italian organized crime groups. Starting from a comparative analysis of the way in which – over time – the different manifestations of female power and male domination in certain organized crime groups (Cosa Nostra and others) have changed, we seek to understand what female power is in these contexts and what are the circumstances which make it legitimate and visible, what are the different modalities in which it expresses itself over time, in different locations and criminal contexts. The studies of women’s roles in mafias have shown how, over time, these have changed, particularly in terms of their ‘visibility’. Over the last 20 years, when organized crime groups have encountered difficult moments because of the many arrests, they have increasingly given women the task of preserving, asserting and reflecting their own image of power to the outside world. We show how the specific ambiguity which characterizes the role of women in crime has forced women to interpret roles which are marginal and isolated when in reality they are of central importance for the mafia: even though their role is not recognized by their men or public opinion, they have direct/real power. Although a superficial analysis may partially justify why there is little reference to women criminals in the legal statistics, a closer look reveals a more complex picture. There are many cases of the function women in the mafia which have been interpreted (and also in judicial material) as cases of a ‘temporary delegation of power’ – reducing the role of the female to a marginal and limited one which, also at the judicial level, offers the mafia ways of escaping punishment. In reality, the female roles in mafia organized crime - which have always been seen as limited because of the small number of women sentenced for mafia association – are varied and more important than we may think.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOrganised Crime. Dark Side of Globalisation
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Publication series

NameInterdisciplinary Studies on Culture and Society, vol. 8.


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