Archived project

Cultural differences or cultural bias? Policing the Calabrian 'ndrangheta around the world.

Goal: British Academy/Leverlhulme Trust Small Grant Research Project -

The main aim of this research project is to critically assess the institutional perception of mafia-type groups in countries distant from the one of origin. In particular, this research will look at policing approaches to the Calabrian ‘ndrangheta in Canada and Australia, and will explore how cultural awareness can become an essential trait of policing mafia crimes nationally and transnationally. The ‘ndrangheta is the collective name given to mafia-type clans in Calabria, southern Italy. The clans are at the centre of major judicial enquiries and are active in various countries around the world, mainly Canada and Australia and various European countries. Scholars debate to what extent criminals of Calabrian origin around the world belong to, and replicate the structure of, the clans in Calabria. More research is needed in Italy, Canada, Australia and Europe (via Europol) to avoid both ethnic stereotyping of Calabrian migrants and flawed or biased policing approaches to mafia-type groups abroad.

Date: 1 April 2017 - 1 April 2018

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Project log

Anna Sergi
added a research item
In the past decade, the attention to the Calabrian mafia, the ‘ndrangheta, has been rekindled everywhere in the world. On the one hand, Italian attention to the phenomenon has increased; on the other hand, the mobility of the Calabrian clans has been the object of scrutiny in view of the clan’s wealth and ability to commit transnational criminal activities. This has also fed the presumption that (alleged) offenders of Calabrian origins around the world must belong to, and replicate the structure of, the ‘ndrangheta clans, also down under. This contribution will be a reflection on the difficulties and the complexities of a journey into researching the ‘ndrangheta in Australia from a criminological–anthropological perspective, in consideration of—but in contrast with—the mythical figures associated with the Calabrian mafia and its illicit global markets. Some of the difficulties, as well as some of the mistakes that I have made in this research, because of the involuntary (and disorganized) nature of the ethnography, directly question the narrative of the illegal global reach of this mafia and provide methodological reflections and lessons for criminological ethnographies.
Anna Sergi
added a research item
OPEN ACCESS - https://riviste.unimi.it/index.php/cross/article/view/15342 : Questa ricerca si lega a studi sulla mobilità criminale della ‘ndrangheta in Australia. Risultato di una estesa ricerca sul campo, e partendo da una critica del concetto di etnia nel crimine organizzato italiano in Australia, questo lavoro riflette sugli interessi politici dei clan calabresi in Australia. Alcuni clan possono mantenere legami con poteri ed élite professionali anche sfruttando la “solidarietà etnica” all’interno della comunità migrante.
Anna Sergi
added a research item
The In the past decades, the Australian 'ndrangheta has been object of media attention, academic inquiry and growing policing concern. In Australia, however, the phenomenon is not new. Next to contemporary manifestations of mafia clans and activities, there is an historical 'ndrangheta, with families and networks in specific areas of the country. Their activities peaked between the 1950s and the 1970s and their reputation still persists and populates mafia narratives. This article will analyse historical archives broadly related to a nebulous idea of the Italian mafia in Australia. These archival sources contain both institutional documents (from police forces, intelligence services and law enforcement agencies) and, to a lower extent, media sources ranging from 1940s to 1980s. The analysis will show how Australian authorities observed, approached and attempted to fight the mafia phenomenon-and specifically that of Calabrian origin-very early and with mixed results. This article will eventually argue that also thanks to the geography and history of Australia as a country-island, the 'ndrangheta phenomenon has developed and prospered until today.
Anna Sergi
added a research item
While attention to the 'ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia, in Australia, has significantly increased in the past two decades, historical records referring to this peculiar manifestation of organised crime in the country date back almost a century. This research is situated in between studies on mafia mobility and studies on the nature of mafia-type organised crime in Italy and in Australia. Relying on archival research, fieldwork and focus groups with law enforcement agencies across most Australian jurisdictions, this paper will essentially argue that there is in Australia an ongoing criminal system that is made of ethnically hybrid criminal networks-predominantly made of, but not limited to, Calabrian ethnicity. Ethnic solidarity and traditional norms and values of the 'ndrangheta, embedded in Calabrian migrant culture, provide the roof to these networks' behaviours and organisation. This paper will discuss how the resilience of this mafia in Australia is linked to the capacity of 'ndrangheta clans to maintain different heads-to be polycephalous-all differently and equally important: their organisational head is stable and culturally homogeneous, their (mafia-type) behaviours are constant, flexible and rooted in ethnic solidarity, and their activities are very dynamic, but hybrid in their ethnic composition. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0004865818782573
Anna Sergi
added a research item
Traditional New York crime families are being reinvigorated by collaboration with the Calabrian mafia. Anna Sergi reports from New York on the shifting dynamics. Key Points  The ‘Five Families’ of La Cosa Nostra (LCN) remain the most potent organised crime threat in New York, and have diversified their operations despite an apparent decline in their power and influence.  In common with its growing global reach, the 'Ndrangheta Calabrian mafia is increasing its activity and influence in the region, particularly in Canada but increasingly in New York as well.  These transnational networks are seeking to establish New York as a major drug trafficking hub.
Anna Sergi
added a research item
The Italian antimafia authorities have warned Canadian law enforcement about the risks and the growing concerns for the infiltration of clans of the Calabrian mafia, known as ‘ndrangheta, in Eastern Canada3. The alarm linked to the rise of the ‘ndrangheta challenges the paradigms of traditional organized crime in Canada, because the ‘ndrangheta is presented as traditional but also innovative and more pervasive than other mafia-type groups. Through access to confidential investigations and interviews to key specialist law enforcement teams in Toronto and Montreal, this article investigates today’s institutional perception of mafia – the ‘ndrangheta in particular – in Canada when compared to Italian conceptualizations. I will argue that the changes in narratives in Canada can be read in relation to changes in the Italian identity in the country, moving towards regionalization and specialist knowledge of ethnic differences.
Anna Sergi
added a project goal
British Academy/Leverlhulme Trust Small Grant Research Project -
The main aim of this research project is to critically assess the institutional perception of mafia-type groups in countries distant from the one of origin. In particular, this research will look at policing approaches to the Calabrian ‘ndrangheta in Canada and Australia, and will explore how cultural awareness can become an essential trait of policing mafia crimes nationally and transnationally. The ‘ndrangheta is the collective name given to mafia-type clans in Calabria, southern Italy. The clans are at the centre of major judicial enquiries and are active in various countries around the world, mainly Canada and Australia and various European countries. Scholars debate to what extent criminals of Calabrian origin around the world belong to, and replicate the structure of, the clans in Calabria. More research is needed in Italy, Canada, Australia and Europe (via Europol) to avoid both ethnic stereotyping of Calabrian migrants and flawed or biased policing approaches to mafia-type groups abroad.