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ECPR Standing Group on the European Union 10th Biennial Conference LUISS, Rome

Mafia and the City: a Case Study in Ostia (Rome)

Organised Crime
Ilaria Meli
Sapienza University of Rome
Ilaria Meli
Sapienza University of Rome

Usually the origins of mafia-type associations have been attributed to the dynamics linked to the latifundum society. Some authors point out that the mafia originally arose in illegal (and so uncontrolled) markets, others connected the beginning of this phenomenon to the underdevelopment and exploitation of smallholders. Even if criminal associations developed in more urbanised areas, there is an extensive literature that identifies small and medium-sized towns as the more likely environment for such organizations, also in non-traditional territories.
Between the traditional mafias, the camorra in Naples seems to be the only one that was developed in an urban context, but this phenomenon has been described by authors more as a type of gangsterism than a proper mafia.
Nevertheless, cities seem to be more involved in mafia expansion outside their original territories: Milan, as it has always been, the second capital of the ‘ndrangheta and – more recently - Rome. This last case could be most interesting, because not only did the traditional mafias move to Rome after the Second World War, but also a new type of mafia organisation arose in the area. These are local criminal groups that adopted the mafia model through a process called “imitation” and they aren’t linked to the traditional organisations.
Since then, traditional and local mafias have divided the territory of the Italian capital between them.
In order to analyse the development of a mafia-type organisation in an urban context, Ostia would seem to be a very interesting research workshop.
In this neighborhood of Rome, two traditional mafias (Cosa nostra and camorra) and two local ones (the Fascianis and the Spadas) have coexisted. The first ones moved there in the ‘70s; the others were small criminal groups from Abruzzo that adopted the mafia model more recently, only after they moved to Ostia.
What factors could have facilitated the emergence of these criminal groups in this area? What are the benefits and what are the obstacles that a city presents for the expansion of the mafia model?
This paper is a part of a wider Phd thesis and it is based on the analysis of existing documents and an empirical analysis on the fieldwork (interviews and participant observation).
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