Gail Super

Gail Super

Assistant Professor Sociology
Office Location:
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. Dr. Super works critically within, and between, the disciplines of Law and Society and Sociology, with a specialization in the Sociology of Punishment. Her research programme focuses on the political context of penal policy-making, specifically the role of crime and punishment in constituting 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 and how punishment plays out in different combinations and spaces.

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 is on the relationship between state authority, vigilantism and penal power. She focuses on crime prevention in marginalized informal (shack) settlements in South Africa and examines how legal forms of community based crime prevention (such as neighborhood watches) overlap with local punitive practices. Dr. Super uses her work on South Africa to reflect on broader themes, including the relationship between violence and inequality and the dangers of state imposed voluntarism in contexts of high unemployment and crime.  She has published in The British Journal of Criminology; Theoretical Criminology; Punishment and Society and; The Law and Society Review.


Super, G. 2020. Punitive Welfare on the Margins of the State: Narratives of Punishment and (In)Justice in Masiphumelele. Social & Legal Studies. 

Super, Gail. 2019. ‘Three warnings and you’re out’: Banishment and precarious penality in South Africa’s informal settlements, Punishment and Society,, First Published February 3, 2019.

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. ‘Volatile sovereignty: governing crime through the community in Khayelitsha’, Law and Society Review, vol. 50, No. 2, 450-483.

Super, Gail. 2016. ‘Punishment and democracy in South Africa’, Punishment and Society, Vol. 18, 3, 325-345.  

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.

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, 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, January, 51(1): 201-221.

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


Punishment, Penality, Legal Pluralism, Vigilantism



Criminology, Law and Society, Punishment and Society


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


Current Courses: