Gail Super

Gail Super

Associate Professor
  • Room:
  • Mailing Address:

    3359 Mississauga Road
    Mississauga ON L5L 1C6

Professor Super's research interests include legal and criminological theory, the sociology of punishment and its philosophical justifications, vigilantism, legal pluralism, and critical bordering studies. She has conducted extensive empirical research in South Africa  - on how categories of crime and criminality are produced, and on the relationships between punishment, democratization, and political authority. Her main current (SSHRC funded) research program in South Africa explores vigilante violence in poor black townships in Cape Town, and the relationships between state and non-state penal violence. She is also involved in an Indigenous-led policy research program in Northwest Ontario, where together with the Atikokan Native Friendship Centre she is researching how Indigenous youth are treated by the Canadian child welfare system. Professor Super uses her empirical research to reflect on broader themes, such as the tensions and overlaps between 'justice', punishment, and vengeance in contexts of 'post' colonialism and inequality. Prior to embarking on her Ph.D. she practiced as a human rights lawyer in Namibia, where she focused on children in police detention and prison. In addition to her empirical research Professor Super also writes on the relationship between law and violence, following in the tradition of Walter Benjamin, and other critical legal scholars. She is the author of Governing through Crime in South Africa: The Politics of Race and Class in Neoliberalizing Regimes (Ashgate 2013) and has also published in leading journals such as the British Journal of Criminology, Law & Society Review, Punishment and Society, Theoretical Criminology, and Antipode.

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


Super, Gail. 2023. "Porous Penality and the Myth of Liberal Punishment: Lessons from South Africa”. The British Journal of Criminology

Super, Gail. 2023. “Extrajudicial Punishment and the Criminal Question: The Case of Postcolonial South Africa.” In Decolonising the Criminal Question: Colonial Legacies, Contemporary Problems, edited by Ana Aliverti, Henrique Carvalho, Anastasia Chamberlen, Máximo Sozzo. New York: Oxford University Press. 

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