1st Edition

Policing and Boundaries in a Violent Society A South African Case Study

By Guy Lamb Copyright 2022
    282 Pages 25 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    282 Pages 25 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book explores how social and territorial boundaries have influenced the approaches and practices of the South Africa Police Service (SAPS). By means of a historical analysis of South Africa, this book introduces a new concept, ‘police frontierism’, which illuminates the nature of the relationships between the police, policing and boundaries, and can potentially be used for future case study research.

    Drawing on a wealth of research, this book examines how social and territorial boundaries strongly influenced police practices and behaviour in South Africa, and how social delineations amplify and distort existing police prejudices against those communities on the other side of the boundary. Focusing on cases of high-density police operations, public-order policing and the recent policing of the COVID-19 lockdown, this book argues that poor economic conditions combined with an increased militarisation of the SAPS and a decline in public trust in the police will result in boundaries continuing to fundamentally inform police work in South Africa.

    This book will be of interest to scholars and students interested in policing in post-colonial societies characterised by high levels of violence, as well as police work and police militarization.


    1. Boundaries, the police and police work: A conceptualisation

    2. Policing and boundaries in South African prior to 1948

    3. The South African Police and the Policing of Apartheid

    4. Violent crime, firearms and post-apartheid police work

    5. Public Order Policing

    6. SAPS high-density policing operations

    7. COVID and policing in South Africa

    8. Conclusion


    Guy Lamb is a Criminologist with the Department of Political Science at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Between 2012 and 2020 he was the Director of the Safety and Violence Initiative at the University of Cape Town. Prior to this he was a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Security Studies (2006-2012), and Senior Researcher at the Centre for Conflict Resolution (2000-2005). He has undertaken research and published on policing, violence reduction, urban safety, policing and peace-building issues in Africa for more than 20 years. He has worked with numerous governments and various United Nations agencies on violence and security issues.

    "A timely and hugely important book. South Africa faces a crisis in policing and Guy Lamb tells us why. We are shaped by where we come from and understanding police disfunction today means we need to understand how its work is fundamentally framed by social and territorial boundaries."

    Jakkie Cilliers, Founder and Chairperson of the Board, Institute for Security Studies, South Africa

    "Guy Lamb offers pioneering explorations into ’police frontierism’ as a concept of ‘law and order’ based on fencing off rather than integrating communities. A must read for all interested in post-Apartheid policing, pointing to the historic and regional legacies of present securitisation beyond the borders of South African society."

    Prof. Henning Melber, University of Pretoria / University of the Free State, Bloemfontein / Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala

    "Guy Lamb's insightful unearthing of a pervasive, yet strangely neglected, feature of police and policing -- the maintenance of boundaries and frontiers -- could not have come at a more prescient time, as police across the globe have been deployed to enforce ‘physical distancing’ in managing COVID-19." 

    Prof. Clifford Shearing, Universities of Cape Town, Griffith and Montreal

    "Guy Lamb’s compelling and detailed account of police frontierism not only showcases the disturbing historical continuities of police boundary work from colonial to contemporary times, but also provides new insights on the use of police violence in governing ‘othered’ spaces – a timely contribution in light of the challenges of policing the COVID pandemic."

    Dr Julie Berg, University of Glasgow, UK