SJ Cooper-Knock (they/them)
Department of Sociological Studies
Senior Lecturer in Criminology
Academic Lead on Education for Sustainable Development
+44 114 222 6798
Full contact details
Department of Sociological Studies
2 Whitham Road
SJ's research focuses on the politics of urban life in South Africa. The current focus of their work includes: everyday policing and punishment; being and belonging in the city; the politics of crisis; and concepts of urban justice.
SJ completed their undergraduate in History and Politics (BA Hons) at the University of Nottingham. Later, they studied for their MPhil and DPhil in International Development at the University of Oxford.
SJ worked at the London School of Economics and Political Science in International Development before moving to the University of Edinburgh where they were jointly appointed by Social Anthropology and the Centre of African Studies.
SJ joined The University of Sheffield as a joint appointment between the Department of Sociological Studies and the School of Law in 2021.
SJ is an Associate Researcher at ACMS at the University of the Witwatersrand and a member of the Politics of Urban Governance Research Group at the University of the Western Cape. They have served on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Southern African Studies and Critical African Studies. They are an Editor on the Urban Africa Book Series for UCL Press.
- PhD, University of Oxford
- MPhil, University of Oxford
- BA(hons) University of Nottingham
- Research interests
SJ's research focuses on the politics of urban life in South Africa. The current focus of their work includes: everyday policing and punishment; being and belonging in the city; the politics of crisis; and concepts of urban justice. It includes:
- Everyday Policing and Punishment, exploring different forms of policing and punishment and their consequences in South Africa with a range of collaborators including Dr Gail Super and Kamau Wairuri.
- Off-grid Cities, exploring elite off-grid decisions around energy and their broader consequences for sustainability and justice with Gauteng City Regional Observatory, University of Cambridge, University of the Western Cape, and University of the Witwatersrand.
- Magistrates Courts in South Africa and Uganda with Dr Anna Macdonald (University of East Anglia).
- Moving Words Project exploring migration, being, and belonging in Johannesburg with Dr Duduzile Ndlovu (ACMS, Wits).
- The Lockdown Diary Project exploring the experience of 70 residents across Cape Town from occupied buildings, informal settlements, townships and suburbs with Dr Fiona Anciano, Mmeli Dube, Mfundo Majola, and Boitumelo Papane (University of the Western Cape).
- The Politics of Fire Project exploring informal settlement fire in the Western Cape with the IRIS Fire Team (University of Edinburgh, University of the Western Cape, University of Stellenbosch).
- “Maybe we should take the legal ways”: Citizen engagement with lower state courts in post‐war northern Uganda. Law & Society Review, 56(4), 509-531.
- Civic‐led banishment in South Africa: punishment, authority, and spatialised precarity. Antipode, 54(1), 174-196.
- A summons to the magistrates’ courts in South Africa and Uganda. African Affairs, 119(477), 552-577.
- Research group
SJ is a member of Institute for Global Sustainable Development, the Centre for Criminological Research, and a fellow at the Urban Institute.
- Teaching interests
SJ teaches on a range of criminology modules in the School of Law and the Department of Sociological Studies. Through their teaching, SJ tries to create spaces of transformative learning for staff and students. They enjoy creative, innovative, and applied approaches to learning which help people to better understand the world around them and their place within it. SJ relishes the opportunity to continue improving their teaching practice, recognising that the journey towards a more inclusive and equal university is never finished.
- Teaching activities
SJ is currently teaching on the following modules:
- Non-state policing: insights from across the globe
- Solidarity: Possibilities and politics of solidarity across the globe
- Sociology of crime and deviance
- Postgraduate Supervision
SJ has supervised three PhD students to completion. SJ is currently supervising topics on:
- Policing and punishment
- International development and humanitarianism
- Urban power and politics
- Housing and inclusion
- Xenophobia and racism