Ethnographies of Organized Crime, by Federico Varese

in The Oxford Handbook of Ethnographies of Crime and Criminal Justice, Edited by Sandra M. Bucerius, Kevin D. Haggerty, and Luca Berardi, Oxford University Press, 2021, pp. 340-360.

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses how the ethnographic method has been used to study organized crime (OC). The first part defines OC, the mafia, and ethnography. The second section reviews early field studies, and the third focuses on the seminal contribution by W.F. Whyte, Street Corner Society (1943/1993). Whyte has set the model for subsequent ethnographies of OC and the mafia as involving (1) extensive periods in the field, (2) a project that is independent of authorities, (3) developing an intimate knowledge of the place or an organization, (4) the observation of interactions, and (5) a concern for the validity and the reliability of the data collected, including the impact of the ethnographer’s position on the information gathered. The fourth section offers a selective review of subsequent ethnographies of OC which are compared and contrasted with Street Corner Society. The final section discusses risk, the use of official data, the issue of anonymity, “rapid ethnographies,” and the limitations of fieldwork.

Keywords: organized crimemafiaStreet Corner Societycommunitiesorganizationsnetworks

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