ELCSG005 - Organised Crime: Gangsters in Life and Art

Value: 30 credits
Tutor: Professor John Dickie
Teaching structure:
5,000 word essay

Module Description:

The module seeks to bring the latest historical and sociological research on organized crime together with work on representations of violence and masculinity to examine aspects of the reality of organized crime, our culture’s longstanding fascination with gangsters, and the interplay of reality and representation in both the underworld and the ‘upper world’. The mafias of Italy will be a guiding focus, although there will also be scope for comparison, and for study of other areas such as the United States, South Africa, France, and Eastern Europe.

The module will provide analytical tools for the historical and sociological study of organized crime, and address specific case studies aimed at understanding the reality of organized crime, analysing its representation in the culture, and appreciating the interplay between them. The more general questions to be addressed may include the following: How can we define the mafia? How has the mafia been defined historically? How organized is organized crime? What is the role of women in organized crime, and how has it changed? How do mafias begin, and how do they spread?

Preparatory Reading and Set Texts:

  • A. Block, East side, west side: organizing crime in New York, 1930-1950, London, 1999.
  • J. Dickie, Cosa Nostra. A History of the Sicilian Mafia, London, 2004.
  • J. Dickie, Blood Brotherhoods, London, 2011.
  • G. Falcone, Cose di Cosa Nostra, Milan, 1993.
  • D. Gambetta, The Sicilian Mafia: The Business of Private Protection, Harvard UP, 1996.
  • D. Gambetta, Codes of the Underworld: How Criminals Communicate, Princeton UP, 2009.
  • S. Lupo, Storia della mafia, Rome, 1996. (History of the Mafia, Columbia UP, 2009)
  • R. Siebert, Secrets of Life and Death, London, 1996.
  • F. Varese, The Russian Mafia: Private Protection in a New Market Economy, Oxford, 2005.
  • E. Varese, Mafias on the move. How Organized Crime Conquers New Territories, Princeton UP, 2011.