Call for applications – PhD Scholarship (CLAIMS to Energy Citizenship in South Africa)

The African Centre for Cities (ACC) invites applications for a PhD scholarship as part of the CLAIMS to Energy Citizenship project, funded by DANIDA (2024-2028). The deadline for submission is 19 July 2024.


The ACC was established in 2007 at the University of Cape Town as an urban research centre. The ACC is based in the School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, but is interdisciplinary in its scope, drawing expertise on urban issues from across the university. The mission of the ACC is to “facilitate critical urban research and policy discourses for the promotion of vibrant, democratic and sustainable urban development in the global South”.

The ACC has secured funding for two PhD positions (as well as two master scholarships) as part of the CLAIMS to Energy Citizenship project. The project focuses on energy transitions in South Africa and has three work packages:

  1. WP1 will focus on everyday practices and activism related to energy access. This WP is led by Prof Karen Waltorp from the University of Copenhagen.
  2. WP2 will focus on the sub-national state and processes of transitioning energy systems. This WP is led by Dr Liza Cirolia at the African Centre for Cities.
  3. WP3 will aim to draw insights from WP1 and WP2 together to craft a multi-scalar and multi-actor view of infrastructural citizenship, led by the team.

Call for applications

This call is specifically for the PhD that will align with WP1 (see above). The PhD will be co-supervised by Prof Waltorp and Dr Cirolia. While there is scope for the scholar to craft their own research question, the theme, focus and method will need to align both to WP1 and the wider project framework. This WP will explore understanding electricity challenges from an ethnographic perspective, with a focus on everyday experiences and practices. This will include developing an understanding of the electricity claims made by individuals, households, and collectives and exploring how experiments with small-scale renewable energy are experienced locally. The PhD project will focus particularly on households in Khayelitsha who have been involved in mini-grid and related energy experiments.  See additional criteria for the expected skills and experience of the applicant.


The successful applicant will be required to:

  • Register for full-time study in the Department of Environment and Geographical Sciences (EGS)
  • Engage actively in the overall project, including attending project meetings, workshops and events.
  • Undertake research tasks related to the overall project.
  • Comply with the University’s approved policies, procedures and practices for the postgraduate sector.


Successful candidates may not hold scholarships and salaried/full-time employment concurrently.

Value and tenure

The value of this award is ZAR 315,000 per year. The award is renewable for three years, with continued renewal contingent on annual progress. Additional funding will be available for fieldwork and travel costs. While we hope that the student will begin in 2024, we are open to a 2025 start-date if necessary.

Academic criteria and required experience


  • Applicants must hold a Masters degree in anthropology, geography,  sociology, urban studies, or related fields.
  • Applicants must have demonstrated experience in undertaking field-based ethnographic research in underserviced urban residential areas and they must have the willingness and capacity to conduct research in Khayelitsha. F
  • Applicants must be willing to participate in the project, including undertaking research in service of the wider project objectives and participating in workshops and events.
  • Applicants must be willing and able to travel to Europe to undertake exchanges and trainings.


Recommended (but not required):

  • Skills within visual or multimodal anthropology (documentary, podcast, arts practice)
  • Experience working on energy in the South African context
  • Fluency in isiXhosa
Application requirements

Please submit the following documents in a single pdf file. Incomplete or poorly formatted applications will not be considered.


  1. A letter of application of no more than two pages, which addresses the following questions:
    • What is your motivation for applying to undertake a PhD at the African Centre for Cities? How does this PhD and the project fit within your career goals?
    • How does your experience and skills meet the minimum requirements of the advert? Where possible, make reference to both the listed requirements and your own CV.  Be sure to include relevant experience related to energy in South Africa and ethnographic methods.
    • What are the primary and unique skills, experiences, approaches, etc., you bring to the project team and the African Centre for Cities?
    • Based on your understanding of the project (see call for application above), how would you approach this study?
  2. A maximum two page CV with names and contact details of at least two academic referees who have taught, supervised or worked alongside the applicant;
  3. Copies of academic certificates and transcripts;
  4. A writing sample of 250 words

The scholarship shall be awarded by a committee consisting of the PI of the Project, the lead researcher of the project, and two external representatives. The scholarships shall be awarded on the basis of academic ability for full-time study.

Submission details
  • Closing date: 19 July 2024
  • Applications should be submitted to Ms Faranaaz Bennett:
  • For more information on this position, please contact Dr Liza Cirolia: