Women and transnational organized crime: the ambiguous case of the italian Mafias

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This 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. Often during moments of emergency for organized crime groups, even with potential male substitutes, women are perceived as more reliable. They have been given important tasks for the survival of the organization. They have been used to manage the profits and collect payments, communicate between prisons and the outside world. They have been given roles of responsibility in the business of the clan, playing important roles in the criminal strategies in their own right. The international situation is also examined. 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. In order to show their full extent of their role, using the few available sources, we seek to give mafia women a voice, exploring their beliefs and their life experiences in relation to mafia membership. Using primary sources, interviews, letters, judicial material we seek to establish the narrative and image of the women who exist in the mafia world or who come into contact with it. A mafia explained through the metaphor of a ‘prism of types’ – rather than by a male narrative – exposes different unexplored routes and perspectives which hopefully allow us to elaborate on and define new aspects of a world which is continuously changing in a transnational context. An innovative approach is used to show new aspects and ideas.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteRoutledge Handbook of Transnational Organized Crime
Numero di pagine14
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2012

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