Gail Super

Gail Super

Assistant Professor
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    3359 Mississauga Road
    Mississauga ON L5L 1C6

Gail Super (Ph.D. 2010, Law and Society, New York University, New York) is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga. Prior to embarking on her Ph.D., Dr. Super practiced as a human rights lawyer in Namibia, where she focused on children in police detention and prison. Dr. Super works critically within, and between, the disciplines of Law and Society and Sociology, with a specialization in the Sociology of Punishment, Critical Bordering Studies, Legal Pluralism, and Legal Geography. Her research program focuses on the socio-spatial, temporal, and political context of penal policy-making, specifically how categories of crime and criminality are produced, and how punishment and penal violence constitute political authority and vice versa.  A core component of her theoretical framework is recognition of the variegated assemblages and hybrids that constitute the penal field, how official (state) punishment plays out spatiotemporally - in different combinations, spaces, and temporalities, and how historic and contemporary penal forms co-constitute contemporary penality.

In her book, Governing through Crime in South Africa: The Politics of Race and Class in Neoliberalizing Regimes (Ashgate 2013), Dr. Super examined shifts and continuities in the socio-cultural and political significance of crime over a change of regime, from a white authoritarian apartheid government to the first black government under the leadership of the African National Congress. She found that the demise of apartheid led to lengthening prison sentences, leading to her interest in the relationship between punishment and democratization. Dr. Super’s current research, funded by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant, is on the relationship between state authority, vigilantism, and penal power and how this plays out over space and time. She focuses on how lawful techniques of crime prevention, such as Neighborhood Watches, are prone to collapse into unlawful forms of penal violence, and how discourses and practices of crime control act as racist spatiotemporal bordering mechanisms in South Africa, and beyond. Dr. Super researches how specific forms of penal violence (banishment, expulsions, corporal punishment, lethal collective violence, kidnapping etc.) in marginalized informal (shack) settlements in South Africa, interact with state practices of policing and punishment,  and how these emerge in contexts of historic and contemporary legal pluralism.  Dr. Super uses her work on South Africa to reflect on broader themes, including the relationship between violence, inequality, and infrastructures of punishment in colonial and postcolonial contexts.  She has published in The British Journal of Criminology; Theoretical Criminology; Punishment and Society; The Law and Society Review; and Antipode.

Ph.D. (Law and Society, New York University)


Super, Gail. 2022. “Cars, Compounds and Containers: Judicial and Extrajudicial Infrastructures of Punishment in the ‘Old’ and ‘New’ South Africa.” Punishment & Society.

Super, Gail and Ana Ballesteros Pena. 2022. “Violence and Bordering on the Margins of the State: A View From South Africa and the Southern Border of Spain.” Theoretical Criminology.

Cooper-Knock, S.J. and Gail Super. 2021. “Civic-Led Banishment in South Africa: Punishment, Authority, and Spatialised Precarity.” Antipode

Super, Gail. 2020. “Punitive Welfare on the Margins of the State: Narratives of Punishment and (In)Justice in Masiphumelele.” Social & Legal Studies 30(3):426-447. 

Super, Gail. 2019. “’Three Warnings and You’re Out’: Banishment and Precarious Penality in South Africa’s Informal Settlements.” Punishment and Society 22(1):48-69.

Super, Gail. 2017. “What’s in a Name and Why it Matters – A Historical Analysis of the Relationship Between State Authority, Vigilantism and Penal Power in South Africa.” Theoretical Criminology 21(4):512-531.

Super, Gail. 2016. “Punishment, Violence, and Grassroots Democracy in South Africa—The Politics of Populist Punitiveness.” Punishment & Society 18(3):325-345.  

Super, Gail. 2016. “Volatile Sovereignty: Governing Crime Through the Community in Khayelitsha.” Law and Society Review 50(2):450-483.

Super, Gail. 2014. “20 Years of Punishment (and Democracy) in South Africa, the Pitfalls of Governing Crime Through the Community.” South African Crime Quarterly 48:7-15.

Super, Gail. 2011. “’Like Some Rough Beast Slouching Towards Bethlehem to be Born’: A Historical Perspective on the Institution of the Prison in South Africa, 1976-2004.” British Journal of Criminology 51(1):201-221.

Super, Gail. 2011.Punishment and the Body in the ‘Old’ and ‘New’ South Africa, a Story of Punitive Humanism.” Theoretical Criminology 15(4):427-443.

Super, Gail. 2010. “The Spectacle of Crime in the ‘New’ South Africa: A Historical Perspective (1976-2004).” British Journal of Criminology 50(2):165-184.


Punishment; Penality; Legal Pluralism; Vigilantism


Criminology, Law and Society; Punishment and Society; Vigilantism
Current Courses
SOC325H5, SOC351H5, SOC406H5