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Gail Super, Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga, received her PhD in Law and Society in 2010 from New York University. She has an MSc in Criminology from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a BA LLB from the University of Cape Town. Prior to embarking on her PhD 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. Her research program 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.