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Prof Elrena van der Spuy


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



Elrena van der Spuy is a member of the Centre of Criminology in the Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town (UCT). She has been interested in the social history of police and policing in South Africa.  Substantive areas of inquiry  have included the  structural evolution of the police in modern South Africa; the dynamics of policing under conditions of counter-insurgency in the 1980s; the impact of transitional politics on the form and function of the police; the narrative accounts of transition amongst key criminal justice incumbents, and the history of public inquiries into police, 1910-2015.    The complexity and ambiguities associated with the subculture of police organisations has been a long standing research interest. Finally, using the South African case study as a point of departure has allowed her to explore the challenges confronting police in other post colonies. 

Elrena has been involved in various policy networks- the South-South Co-operation for Determining Best Practices for Crime Prevention in the Developing World; the Crime Prevention Alliance Research Network in South Africa, and the African Security Dialogue Research Network (ASSN). She is Board member of the Institute for Security Studies; the Centre for Social Science Research at UCT; the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention. 2009, and a Trustee of the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum.

She holds a PhD from the University of Cape Town. 

Research Interests:

The Policing of Conflict: challenges and dilemmas - an investigation into the politics and logistics of policing conflict through the examination of national and regional case studies.

Policing in the context of Peacekeeping - an exploration of the way in which the transnational space of peace missions places new demands on pockets of national police.

The dynamics of Policy transfer - on-going engagement with debates on policy transfer and emulation as it effects security institutions.

The social history of criminal justice reform explored through oral histories which target policy elites situated in policy networks, bureaucratic institutions and/or civil society  



Elrena teaches in both the undergraduate and post graduate programmes offered with the Faculty of Law. The substantive areas include: Crime in South African cities; Social theories: Research Methods; Victims and victimology.  She has also  been involved in the teaching of  Masters Modules in Security Management at WITS University and in modules in crime prevention and police accountability offered by the Centre of Justice and Crime Prevention and the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum respectively.

 Recent Publications:


Van der Spuy, E. and Shearing, C.  (2014) ‘Curbing the Killing Fields: Making South Africa Safer and Less Criminal’, in Rotberg, R. (ed.) Reconfiguring Mandela’s Legacy: South Africa’s Contested Future.  Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

McGrath, C. & Van der Spuy, E.(2014) ‘Insider views on the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services’ South African Crime Quarterly, Vol 48: 39-48.

Van der Spuy, E. (2013) ‘Autobiography of a special kind: Recent writings by and on the police in South Africa.’  South African Crime Quarterly, Vol 46: 13-22.

Van der Spuy, E. (2012). ‘Crime and Justice in South Africa.’ In Oxford Bibliographies Online: Criminology. Ed. Richard Rosenfeld. New York: Oxford University Press

Hübschle, A. & van der Spuy, E. (2012). Organised Crime and Law Enforcement in Southern Africa: The Challenges Confronting Research.  SADC Law Journal 2(2): 319-334.