Civil society and the anti-pizzo movement: the case of Ercolano, Naples

  • Chris Bowkett

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The history of the mezzogiorno region of Italy is interwoven with the role of mafia-type associations, whose influence has affected the lives (and profits) of businesspeople from whom they collect pizzo “protection money”. The fear of reprisals and the lack of trust in law enforcement agencies make it very difficult for businesses approached by these groups for the first time to report the extortion. Once paid, the repeated, normalised and regularised cycle of paying the pizzo is difficult for businesses to break away from. Using the case study of the town of Ercolano, this thesis analyses how a community characterised by entrenched norms of paying the pizzo was able to overcome and uproot its localised extortion rackets to become a model of the anti-mafia movement in Italy. It considers how the pizzo may be best understood, how one community responded to it and to a localised mafia-type association in turn.Using a methodology that includes a ten month ethnography in the town, a questionnaire for members of the local antiracket association, and interviews with businesspeople, representatives from Civil Society, law enforcement agencies and the judiciary, this thesis analyses the defeat of Camorra extortion rackets through the mobilisation of Civil Society and its relationship with law enforcement agencies in a town characterised by deeply-rooted norms of pizzo paying. At the same time, it analyses the response of various Civil Society Organizations and the State to the Camorra on a cultural level, fostering attitudes that make it difficult for it to thrive.The thesis presents an empirical study based on fieldwork of a town previously characterised by a substantial influence by Camorra clans. In particular, it identifies culture and cultural norms that maintain the dominance that mafia-type associations have over communities as an area of focus for the anti-mafia movement more broadly.
Date of Award13 Dec 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorFelia Allum (Supervisor) & Adalgisa Giorgio (Supervisor)


  • Culture
  • Organized crime
  • Resistance
  • Anti-Mafia

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