1 x 3-hour seminar weekly
Topic description

This topic is designed to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the mafia, its history, its activities and its role in Italian society. Through historical, social, cultural and political changes that have characterised Sicily and Italy, the topic traces the historical evolution of the mafia phenomenon from its origin in the Middle Ages to the present day. It will also analyse sociological aspects of this organised crime syndicate such as its codes and culture, its structures of power, its business activities and its relationships with politics, politicians and religion.

This topic will also examine how literature and cinema represent the complexity of the mafia to explore issues of justice, politics, and morality, and it will raise awareness of certain Sicilian and Italian controversial cultural stereotypes.

The topic will also provide an overview of other contemporary criminal groups of Italy such as Camorra, 'Ndrangheta and Sacra Corona Unita.

Language requirements: ALL readings are available in English and ALL films to be accessed for this topic are available with English sub-titles. Lectures/seminars will be conducted in English.

Educational aims

This topic aims to provide opportunities for the students to:

  • Acquire and develop background knowledge on the historical developments, socio-cultural issues that have characterised Italian history and society and led to the emergence of the mafia
  • Develop an understanding of the main problems connected to the mafia, its activities and role in Sicilian and Italian society
  • Demonstrate a capacity to distinguish between stereotypes and reality of mafia
  • Develop analytical and critical skills in examining novels and films as means of social inquiry
  • Create connections between cross-disciplinary boundaries of Cultural studies and Legal Studies, Criminology, Sociology
  • Where applicable, develop further students' comprehension of spoken Italian at an advanced level
Expected learning outcomes
On completion of this topic you will be expected to be able to:

  1. Analyse, discuss, compare, interpret and critique different historical and social developments related to the mafia phenomenon, and use them as context for the interpretation, comparison and critiquing of literary and cinematic authentic texts

Key dates and timetable

(1), (2)

Each class is numbered in brackets.
Where more than one class is offered, students normally attend only one.

Classes are held weekly unless otherwise indicated.


If you are enrolled for this topic, but all classes for one of the activities (eg tutorials) are full,
contact your College Office for assistance. Full classes frequently occur near the start of semester.

Students may still enrol in topics with full classes as more places will be made available as needed.

If this padlock appears next to an activity name (eg Lecture), then class registration is closed for this activity.

Class registration normally closes at the end of week 2 of each semester.

Classes in a stream are grouped so that the same students attend all classes in that stream.
Registration in the stream will result in registration in all classes.
  Unless otherwise advised, classes are not held during semester breaks or on public holidays.