Call for Papers – Special Issue of Punishment & Society: African Penal Histories in Global Perspective

In the twenty years since the publication of Florence Bernault’s edited volume A History of Prison and Confinement in Africa, the study of Africa’s penal systems has expanded tremendously. This scholarship has not only provided a clearer picture of penal ideas and institutions on the African continent across multiple time periods and locations, it has also offered insights into wider questions about the relationship between punishment, colonialism, and decolonization as well as the global circulation of penal techniques. This special issue aims to analyze African developments on their own terms and in relation to imperial and global narratives of punishment and penological networks as well as to integrate the fields of history, sociology, and criminology more closely, highlighting how theoretical insights of sociology and criminology can inform historical research.  By presenting multiple works together in a special issue, we seek to emphasize the value of Africanist historical approaches and methods for interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary research, and to highlight the contribution that studies of African penal systems can make to advancing understanding of global trends in punishment, showing how research on punishment in Africa not only engages with theories from the Global North, but also generates theories that reshape wider approaches to the study of punishment.

Topics for consideration could include (but are not restricted to): indigenous forms of punishment; colonial and postcolonial prisons; capital and corporal punishment; political imprisonment; forced labour; and detention camps.

We are interested in articles undertaking detailed case-study analysis of key historical trends, showcasing different methodological and disciplinary approaches. We invite submissions on all regions of Africa, and its relations with broader global or international developments in punishment and penology.

We particularly welcome submissions from scholars based in Africa and early career scholars.

Author Information:  

Interested applicants should send a 1 page, single-spaced outline of the proposed article to The outline should include: title; argument; temporal and geographical focus; contribution to the literature; research methodology and evidence base. The deadline for abstract submissions is September 30th, 2020.

Submissions are received on a competitive basis and will be reviewed by the guest editors. 4-5 articles will be accepted. Accepted papers will be subject to editorial and peer review, and prior to submission authors will be invited to participate in an online writing workshop to develop their papers with peer feedback. The anticipate deadline for submission of final articles to Punishment & Society is August 2021.

Guest Editors: For more details, please contact the guest editors – Erin Braatz (Suffolk University Law School), Katherine Bruce-Lockhart (University of Waterloo), Stacey Hynd (University of Exeter).