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Senior Researcher

Dr. Simon Howell


Professor Mark Shaw, Director of The Centre of Criminology, UCT


Simon is a senior researcher at the Centre of Criminology in the Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town. Before this, he held a URC Fellowship at the Centre, having also held an Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Rhodes University, and was both an Andrew Mellon and NRF Prestigious Equity beneficiary at PhD and Masters level. 

Holding a PhD in political philosophy, his primary academic interests revolve around a central concern with the relationship between justice and violence, and how this relationship is made manifest both in the structures of modern governance and in the architecture of marginalised peoples’ identities. As such, he has conducted research in a diverse array of analytical domains and with people from many different walks of life, including teenage mothers, township youths, drug users, gangsters, and police officials. 

His research outputs have also been widely documented in the media, and he has appeared on numerous radio and television shows. He is also a reviewer for a number of local and international journals, and supervises a number of postgraduate students.

Derivative of this research, he also works closely with a number of other agencies in developing more effective regulatory mechanisms and procedures, especially as they pertain to illegal drugs and gangs. These include collaborative efforts with the Medical Research Council, ongoing research with the Durban Metropolitan Police Service, and the South African Police Service. 

Speaking to the latter, he is also an executive member of the Drugs Task Team in Khayelitsha, which was established as a result of recommendations by the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry. He has presented his work locally and internationally, most recently in Munich, Lisbon, Durban, and Port Elizabeth.

Research Interests:

Simon has primarily written on the topics of drugs, gangs, and police violence as they pertain to South Africa, although he has also published work on gender issues, the lingering racial dynamics by which the country remains structured, and the manner in which the media has misrepresented a variety of crime-related concerns. His work continues to focus on redirecting and rebuilding the relationships that serve to define these groups, and seeks to develop new and more effective interventions that might find pertinence in the South African context.  



• Crime and Deviance in South African Cities PBL2800F

• Theories of Crime and Social Order PBL5820F

•  Law in Action: Research Methods PBL5849F

•  Police and Policing: Explorations in Security Governance PBL5844S

•  Issues in Crime & Justice: Organised Non-state Violence in Africa PBL5660S

 Recent Publications:


Howell, S. and Vincent, L. (2014). ‘“Licking the snake’ – The i’khothane and contemporary township youth identities in South Africa.” South African Review of Sociology, 45 (2): 60-77. 

Howell, S. and Atta-Asamoah, A. (2014). “West Africa and the transnational trade in illegal drugs: Physical properties, policing, and power.” Africa Review, 7 (1): 1-14.

Howell, S. (2015). ‘“We have to start showing who is boss now’: Constructions of methamphetamine use and users in the South African media.” Crime, Media, Culture, 11(2): 137-156. 

Howell, S. and Couzyn,K. (2015). “The South African National Drug Master Plan, 2013-2017: A critical review.” South African Journal of Criminal Justice, 28(1): 1-23. 

Macleod, C. and Howell, S. (2015). Foetal images and the regulation of middle class pregnancy in the online media: A view from South Africa.” Culture, Health & Sexuality, 17(10): 1207-1220.