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Rome, Italy

Special Topics in Geography and Urban Studies: Italian Mafia

Global Temple Conference

Course Number: 
Geography and Urban Studies
Semester(s) Offered: 
Fall 2021
Spring 2022
Spring 2021
Credit Hours: 

This course is concerned with the contemporary foundations of mafia seen in sociological and social science perspective. Roots are traced from the unification of Italy, with attention to the peculiar character of the Italian state formation process. The evolution of organized criminality is traced through its 20th century developments, and up to the present day, with ramifications in the USA and in other international criminal networks. Special focus is placed on the impact mafia has had on both the landscape and the modern growth of many Italian cities, especially in the south. Institutional safeguards exist in environmental management and urban planning to protect the citizen and the nation’s territory against abuse, yet extensive corruption undermines these provisions.  An important part of the course concerns contemporary institutional and political responses to mafia, including reforms in the criminal justice system to deal with mafia-related crimes. Prison reform provisions dedicated to mafia criminals are considered. Specialized sectors of mafia activities explored include prostitution, drugs, finance, and human trafficking. Ecomafia receives special attention, examining the implications of mafia for the environment, agriculture and food markets. The illegal artwork market is part of this survey. Multiple responses to these criminal activities are reviewed, including the use of social farming on expropriated mafia estates. Attention is paid to the varieties of criminal organization in Italy today, from Cosa Nostra, to Camorra, to ‘Ndrangheta. An integral part of the course involves a visit to Sicily, with a stay in Palermo where the class can see the results of mafia influence in the fabric of the city. Students will also be introduced to anti-mafia activists in both urban and rural contexts.

Special Notes: 

Please note that we are in the process of renumbering some of the Temple Rome courses. Note that this course number may change effective Fall 2019. The description and content of the course will remain the same. All updates will be posted to our website during the spring semester. 


In Rome, this course is cross-listed with Criminal Justice 3000, History 2319, and Sociology 3230.