MAFIA WOMEN IN CONTEMPORARY ITALY: The Changing Role of Women in the Italian Mafia since 1945
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By relying mainly on court cases and interviews with pentiti (people who turned state's evidence), this thesis shows that the role of women in the Italian mafia has significantly changed since 1945. Beyond performing their traditional role, including transmitting mafia values, encouraging vendetta, guaranteeing men's honour and participating in arranged marriages, women started to be involved in criminal activities. Through an historical approach, this thesis demonstrates that changes in the mafia in terms of businesses and structure, and changes in Italian women's conditions have been contributory factors to the above process. This thesis identifies those historical conjunctures where the supply and demand of female labour met within the last thirty years. Since the 1970s, the expansion of drug trafficking and the subsequent accumulation of vast sums of money to be recycled led the mafia to employ women who were also trustworthy and above suspicion. The mafia's need to involve women occurred also in the early 1980s and in the early-mid 1990s when the state improved its battle against the mafia. As many mafia bosses were imprisoned or went underground women assumed temporary leadership positions. The mafia's need for workers was concomitant with the changes in women's conditions in the legal world, resulting in the gradual dissolution of gender barriers and the growth of female education, which made women more likely to be employed by organised crime. This thesis argues that the new female participation in the mafia was not the result of a concession of equality within the mafia labour market. General indicators, such as the persistence of patriarchal relations and women's economic dependence, temporary allocation of power to women during periods of emergency, use of female labour in low profile jobs, and exclusion of women from career opportunities, suggest that the increasing public presence of women in the mafia, beyond mere supportive and private roles, was the result of a process of female `pseudo-emancipation'. On the contrary, women who turned state's evidence were examples of female liberation since they chose to reject the male dominated mafia system.
- Theses