Antimafia, cooperatives, land, law, labour and moralties in a changing Sicily

Rakopoulos, Theodoro. 2012. Antimafia, cooperatives, land, law, labour and moralties in a changing Sicily. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis explores the social, political and economic relations constituted in relation to agrarian cooperatives that work land confiscated by the state from mafiosi owners in the Alto Belice valley, Sicily. It examines access to resources (work and land), and the cooperatives’ division of labour, paying attention to the material changes that the cooperatives (considered in the context of the anti-mafia movement) have brought to people’s lives, as well as the tensions regarding social, labour and property relations that emerged from these changes.

The thesis argues that the state’s intervention entailed the promotion of values (‘legality’) and relationships antithetical to those that obtained locally, such as kinship obligations and local reciprocities, as continuities between local workers’ moralities, and practices with mafia codes are seen as contradicting the state ideology of radical change.

These tensions are explored in the specificities of the cooperatives’ division of labour, which, informed by class, relatedness and locality, pose obstacles to the development of horizontal, equal work relationships. In this context, the thesis explores the contradictions and unintended consequences of the state policy of ‘antimafia transformation’, creating fissures between the cooperatives’ administrators, the local workforce and the wider community.

The thesis provides an ethnographic account of a political project of change that challenged the complex phenomenon of the mafia by radically shifting the conditions of access to material resources. The cooperative project provides alternative values and means of livelihood to those associated with mafia dominance in the area, but largely fails to address the local social arrangements within which the project unfolds. The thesis also addresses debates about horizontal relations in cooperatives, looking at how access to resources (land, labour, reputation) is organised across different moral claims and evaluations, articulated within and outside the cooperatives’ framework.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


Sicily, agragarian cooperatives, mafia, mafioso, labour, workers, ethnography

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



27 June 2012

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

02 May 2013 11:25

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 08:38


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