Dr. des. Sabine Binder


Dr. des. Sabine Binder






Born in Switzerland, Sabine Binder studied English Literature and Linguistics, Educational Psychology and Religious Studies at the University of Zurich, Switzerland and at the University of Aberdeen, UK. She holds a summa cum laude Doctorate, an MA as well as a Teaching Diploma for Secondary Education from the University of Zurich. A research grant awarded by the Swiss National Science Foundation allowed her to spend a year at Stellenbosch University, South Africa in 2013/2014. She is a Research Associate of the English Department at Stellenbosch University and an associate post-doctoral member of the Gender Studies Programme at the Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies at the University of Zurich. She teaches English language, methodology and literature at the Zurich University of Teacher Education.

Zusammenfassung der verteidigten, aber noch nicht publizierten Doktorarbeit

Eingereicht bei Prof. Dr. Therese Steffen, Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Bronfen und Prof. Dr. Sally-Ann Murray

Women in Crime: Victims, Perpetrators and Detectives in Post-Transitional South African Crime Fiction

Considering a wide range of recent South African crime novels, Women in Crime offers the first extensive analysis of the intricate ways in which crime fictional female characters resonate with the country’s widespread and persistent real crimes against women. It critically maps the cultural and gender political work of South African crime novels and demonstrates that precisely by tapping into violence, misogyny and racism, the genre offers a vibrant platform for social, cultural and ethical debates and interventions.

Faced with alarming levels of gender-based violence in the new democracy, a number of South African writers have begun to employ the burgeoning crime genre to address gender inequality and gender conflict. Women in Crime has at its centre the question whether it is possible to take an oppositional stance on real violence against women in a genre that seeks to entertain, among other things, with more or less graphic descriptions of violence. It assesses whether crime fictional interventions effectively expose the many forms of real violence South African women are confronted with. It examines the gendered “truths” the crime novels reveal and what modes of explanation and resistance they offer.

Women in Crime bases its claims on a close reading of twenty-one, as yet scarcely addressed South African crime novels written over the last decade by both established and first-time writers. The novels all share a concern for gendered experience. The current study approaches them through the critical lens of three crime generic stock figures in their female form: the victim, the perpetrator and the detective. It is precisely in its focus away from the detective figure only, to an inclusion of the victim and the perpetrator, where its unique contribution lies. The gender-inflected analysis takes cues from gender theory (Butler, Halberstam, Hooks) and from theoretical work on the ethics and aesthetics of representation (Aaron, Bronfen, Pollock) and combines it in innovative, yet selective, ways with existing feminist and post-colonial scholarly work on the crime genre, literary trauma theory as well as with South African literary, sociological and legal scholarship.

In their preoccupation with truth-finding, justice, redress, as well as power, the female victim, perpetrator and detective figures are found to resonate with the post-transitional South African real in singular ways. Interrogating the construction and contestation of gendered and racialized subjectivities, Women in Crime delineates their victimisation, their rage and the conflicting pressures under which they operate. Simultaneously it traces their specific scope of action and feminist thrust. Thus, it maps the distinct ways in which the three female figures negotiate their vulnerability and their agency. Just as the lines between the three categories are found to be tenuous and can never be neatly drawn, contradictory gender political effects are revealed. In their writing and rewriting of women in crime fiction, the authors successfully expose and revise the status quo that leads to violence against women, yet at times they also reiterate it.


English and American literature, contemporary global literatures in English, film, visual art, culture, gender, genre, postcolonialism, equal opportunities, English language teaching.


Binder, Sabine. 2017a. “Whose Story Is Written on Her Dead Body? Writing Gender Justice and Transformation by Re-Writing Female Victims in South African Crime Thrillers.” Current Writing: Text and Reception in Southern Africa 29 (2): 100-110.

Binder, Sabine. 2017b. “A Case of Transgression: Investigating the Gender Performance of Jassy Mackenzie’s South African Renegade Detective Jade de Jong.” In Cities in Flux: Metropolitan Spaces in South African Literary and Visual Texts. Festschrift in Honour of Professor em. Dr. Therese Steffen, edited by Olivier Moreillon, Alan Muller and Lindy Stiebel, 37-56. Münster: LIT Verlag.

Binder, Sabine. 2015. “Female Killers and Gender Politics in Contemporary South African Crime Fiction: Conversations with Crime Writers Jassy Mackenzie, Angela Makholwa and Mike Nicol.” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature DOI: 10.1177/0021989415619466: 1-18.

Binder, Sabine. 2013. “Disentangling the Detective in Andrew Brown’s Coldsleep Lullaby.” Current Writing: Text and Reception in Southern Africa 25 (2): 176-185.

Binder, Sabine. 2009. “Projektorientiertes Lernen: Notwendigkeit oder Trend?” Bizzu Konkret: Informationsblatt des Bildungszentrums Züricher Unterland 2:1.

Binder, Sabine. 2002. Trouble with the Double? Female Doubles in Selected Novels by Emma Tennant, Sian Hayton and Ali Smith. Universität Zürich. Unpublished Master Thesis.