Italian turns to crowd funding for mafia PhD

Disgruntled doctoral student Mario Trifuoggi has given up on Italian academia and has decided to crowdfund a UK Sociology doctorate - he just needs to find €31,278.

Italian turns to crowd funding for mafia PhD
Frustrated by lack of funding, one Italian student has decided to crowdfund a Phd at an UK university where he believes he can carry out research on the mafia in Naples. Photo: Mario Trifuoggi

After leaving a fully-funded PhD programme in Trento because his academic supervisors – a husband and wife couple – wouldn't let him carry out research on the mafia in his hometown of Naples, Trifuoggi has turned to crowdfunding website Indiegogo to try and find the cash to go abroad.

Should he manage to raise the €31,278 needed to cover three years' tuition fees and rent, Mario will complete his PhD at Goldsmith's University of London studying the mafia.

“British academia is more sensitive to power relation issues between students and staff when it comes to choosing your research,” Trifuoggi told The Local.

Trifuoggi grew up surrounded by organized crime in the infamous Spanish quarter of Naples, a district controlled by the Naples' Camorra mafia . This has made him eager to do his bit to help in Italy's war against organized crime.

“When I was sixteen there was a violent mafia war and the district was no longer under anybody's control,” recalled Mario.

“Amid all the murders and hideous things that happened I was mugged twice and I realized that our security depended more on Mafia control than the state.”  

During his PhD, Trifuoggi wants to spend a year in Naples collecting oral interviews and writing field reports from Mafia controlled districts, like the one he grew up in.

In doing so, he hopes to identify the factors that lead communities either into compliance with the Mafia or into collective action against it.

Trifuoggi argues that collective action is central to the fight against organized crime across southern Italy today, and highlights the role movements such as 'confiscated goods' can play.

“'Confiscated goods' uses state-seized mafia properties and equipment to set up new companies and marks a change in the attitudes of the younger generations towards the Mafia.”

Mario is sure that if he gets his chance, his research can be used by others in the ongoing fight against organized crime across Italy's south.

“I want to make an original contribution in showing how the social aspect of the mafia works, and show how resources and people can be mobilized.”  

For Mario the research will be a public service, and so the crowdfunding campaign is the only way to raise the money needed, given the lack of grants available for social science students.

“I know that I am asking people to pay for my studies – but it's all about collective action.”

“Collective action against the Mafia, and in my case, the lack of funding and opportunities for young Italian researchers, too.”

So far, he has raised €2,069 in 20 days and is hopeful he can reach his target before the campaign expires in 41 days' time.

“Money is coming in from other academics who understand my plight – as well as many Neapolitans who appreciate the scope and goal of the project.” 

If you are interested help Mario reach his goal, or want to find out more about his project, you can visit his Indiegogo page here.

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‘Blind’ Italian scammer arrested after driving

An Italian man who received government support for years due to blindness was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of fraud after being seen driving, window shopping and riding a bike, news reports said.

A Sicilian man has been arrested for faking blindness after he was filmed driving and window shopping
A Sicilian man has been arrested for faking blindness after he was filmed driving and window shopping. MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO / AFP

The man in Palermo, Sicily, received at least 170,000 euros ($191,000) in welfare since 2008 after attesting that he was “totally blind” as a result of a congenital problem, local media reported.

Italy’s financial police were alerted after the man renewed his driver’s license in 2018 despite his earlier declaration, media said.

READ ALSO: ‘Blind’ man filmed giving directions and shopping

During stake-outs, authorities witnessed the man driving – while dialling on his phone at the same time – looking at shop windows while walking through a busy mall and teaching his daughter to ride a bike.

The 40-year-old was also seen riding a scooter without insurance, Palermo Today reported, adding that the man was nicknamed “Berlusconi,” after Italy’s former prime minister with a history of legal problems.

The man was already known to authorities, having received a jail sentence of nearly 15 years in the first instance last year for being part of a group that staged fake traffic accidents to receive insurance payouts.

READ ALSO: Italian police bust bone-breaking insurance fraud gangs

The investigating judge in this latest case ordered the man’s arrest on charges of aggravated fraud to obtain public funds.

The military seized three motor vehicles, three motorbikes, a garage, and the latest generation electric bicycle which the accused had been filmed riding, reports the news daily Il Corriere della Sera.

The case is under appeal.