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In my research and teaching I extend myself across theoretical and applied concerns. As an urbanist, I am deeply fascinated by the drama of cities everywhere and at different moments in time, including the future, the past and science fiction invocations. Simultaneously, I endeavour to remain grounded in the tough and messy realities of cities—invariably always on the move—working with materialist and aesthetic optics. My own work is rooted in two South African cities, Johannesburg and Cape Town but I also track the fortunes of African cities as part of larger discourses on sustainable urban transitions and southern urbanism.

During 2008-2012, I mapped this implied conceptual canvas through a book, City Futures (Zed 2008) and a number of edited volumes (see below). In addition I oversaw the conceptualisation and emergence of a vibrant interdisciplinary research agenda at the African Centre for Cities. One of my key tasks is to continuously evolve a theoretical frame that can suture the diverse topics and scales of work at ACC, without necessarily providing a comprehensive synthesis. During 2015-16 some of this agenda has been written up in a co-authored (with AbdouMaliq Simone) book—New Urban Worlds—that will be published by Polity Press in mid 2017. An enduring element in my scholarship is an interest in urban politics, everyday culture and adaptive governance systems. At the moment I am principal investigator for a comparative study on so-called turnaround cities: Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Kigali, Lagos and Luanda. The research will manifest in an edited volume in 2017 under the auspices of PASGR.

Working in an interdisciplinary frame at ACC led me to become seduced by the power of the written word rubbed against visual registers of representation and interpretation. This stems from a related concern about how scholars and universities can do better to animate publics that can complicate understandings of the city; i.e. constituencies outside of the academy that truly invoke cityness. These concerns have led to the creation of a hybrid magazine/journal—The African Cities Reader that I co-edit with Ntone Edjabe, and Cityscapes—an international magazine on emergent urbanisms in the global South. In 2014 I co-curated with Tau Tavengwa a substantial exhibition: “City Desired”; an exhibition on cities refracted through the prism of Cape Town. See: During 2015-16 I am working with Prof Mark Swilling and Tau Tavengwa as co-curator of the African component of the International Architecture Biennale of Rotterdam 2016 dedicated to the Next Economy. This has since morphed into a a three year creative exploration of the theme: Urban Africa: What Next? The intent is to manifest this exhibition and debates in various African cities from 2018 onwards.

Invariably my research, policy engagements and curatorial interests embed me in various international networks. For example, since 2014 I have been involved with the Research by Design Working Group anchored by Henk Ovink and Eric Klinenberg. Also, since last year I am co-lead author with Prof Saskia Sassen of the Urban Chapter of the forthcoming report of the International Panel on Social Progress. I further serve as a member of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Thematic Group on Sustainable Cities established to promote the Urban Sustainable Development Goal. I am also a jury member of the inaugural Africa Architecture Awards 2017.

Finally, on the applied end of things, I led a Panel of Experts supporting the South African government to formulate an Urban Development Framework for South Africa. The policy is meant to lead to more coherent and effective urban regimes in South Africa over the next few years. I worked on the background paper dealing with global shifts in urban governance for the World Cities Report 2016 published by UN-Habitat. I also assisted in drafting the UN-Habitat and ECA discussion paper, Towards an African Urban Agenda, which is one key informant for policy deliberations in Africa on Habitat III. In 2016 I was co-author of the Conclusion and Recommendations chapter of the GOLD IV Report of UCLG.

Lastly, I am working with various colleagues at ACC and across the continent to grow a new network of urban research centres called: African Urban Research Initiative.

Recent Publications:


Pieterse, E. & Simone, A.M. (in press for 2017) New Urban Worlds. Inhabiting Dissonant Times. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Pieterse, E. (ed) (forthcoming) Promise of tomorrow. e-book. Cape Town: African Centre for Cities & Cityscapes.

Edjabe, N. and Pieterse, E. (eds) (2015) African Cities Reader III: Land, Value and Property. Cape Town: Chimurenga Press & African Centre for Cities.

Parnell, S. and Pieterse, E. (eds) (2014) Africa’s Urban Revolution. London & New York: Zed Books.

Pieterse, E. and Simone, A. (eds) (2013) Rogue Urbanism: Emergent African Cities. Johannesburg: Jacana Publishers in association with African Centre for Cities.

van Donk, M.,  M. Swilling, E. Pieterse & Parnell, S. (eds.) (2008) Consolidating Developmental Local Government: Lessons from the South Africa Experiment. Cape Town: UCT Press.

Pieterse, E. (2008) City Futures: Confronting the Crisis of Urban Development. London and New York: Zed Books.

Book chapters:

Hyman, K. and Pieterse, E. (forthcoming) “Infrastructure deficits and potential in African Cities”, in: Burdett, R. and Hall, S. (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Urban Sociology: New approaches to the twenty-first century city. London: Sage Publishers.

Pieterse, E. (forthcoming) “The City in Sub-Saharan Africa”, in: Short, J.R. (ed)  A Research Agenda for Cities. London and New York: Sage.

Pieterse, E. and Cirolia, L. (2016) “South Africa’s Emerging National Urban Policy And Upgrading Agenda”, in Cirolia, L., Smit, W., van Donk, M., Gorgens, T., & Drimie, S. (eds) Participatory Informal Settlement Upgrading in South Africa. Cape Town: UCT Press.

Pieterse, E. (2016) “Landscapes of Terror: Cityness, routine violence and urban development”, in Khan, F., Grundling, E., Ruiters, G., Ndevu, Z. & Baloyi, B. (eds.) State, Governance and Development in Africa. Cape Town: UCT Press.

Pieterse, E. (2016) “Deciphering the Next Economy and African Cities”, in Brugmans, G., van Dinteren, J. and Hajer, M. (eds) IABR-2016-The Next Economy. Rotterdam: International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam.

Pieterse, E. (2015) Epistemological Practices of Southern Urbanism. In: Wowo Ding, Arie Graafland, and Andong Lu (eds) Cities in Transition II. Power, Environment, Society. Rotterdam: nai010 Publishers.

Pieterse, E. (2015) “Inclusion”, in Ronan Paddison and Tom Hutton (eds) Cities and Economic Change. Sage Publishers.

Pieterse, E. (2015) “Africa’s Urban Imperative”, in Provoost, M. (ed) Cape Town: Densification as a cure for a segregated city. Rotterdam: International New Town Institute.

Pieterse, E. and van Donk, M. (2014) “Citizenship, design activism and informal settlements upgrading”, in: SACN. From Housing to Human Settlements: Perspectives on South African Cities. Johannesburg: South African Cities Network.

Pieterse, E. and Hyman, K. (2014) “Disjunctures between urban infrastructure, finance and affordability”, in Parnell, S. and Oldfield, S. (eds) The Routledge Handbook on Cities of the Global South. London: Routledge.

Pieterse, E. (2014) “Pushing against the frontiers of urban studies in (South) Africa”, in Kalagas, A. (ed) Slumlab: Made in Africa. No 9. Zurich: ETH University.

Pieterse, E. (2013) “Development, Planning and Sustainability”, in Greg Young and Deborah Stevenson (eds) The Ashgate Research Companion to Planning and Culture. Ashgate Publishers.

Pieterse, E. (2013) “Competing imaginaries of empowerment in African Cities”, in Lepik, A. (ed) Afritecture. Building Social Change. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz Verlag.

Pieterse, E. (2013) “Rethinking the purpose and modalities of community development in South African cities”, in GGLN. Active Citizenship Matters. Cape Town: Good Governance Learning Network.

Journal articles:

Pieterse, E. (forthcoming 2017) Urban Governance and Spatial Transformation Ambitions in Johannesburg, Journal of Urban Affairs.

Pieterse, E. (2016) Interviews with Rebuild by Design’s Working Group of Experts by Daniel Aldana Cohen, Public Culture, 28(2): 328-333.

Parnell, S. and Pieterse, E. (2016) Translational global praxis –rethinking methods and modes of African urban research. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.

Pieterse, E. (2014) Adaptive Urbanism: Sensing the Interstices of African Cities. Harvard Design Magazine, No. 37: 80-85.

Pieterse, E. (2013) “Rethinking African urbanism from the slum”, Sustainable Urban Development, 32(3): 14-18.

Pieterse, E. (2013) “City/University Interplays amidst Complexity.” Territorio, No. 66: 26-32.

Sitas, R. & Pieterse, E. (2013) “Democratic renovations and urban imaginaries”, Third Text, 27(3): 327-342.

Pieterse, E. (2012) “High Wire Acts: Knowledge Imperatives of Southern Urbanisms”, The Salon, Volume 5: 37-50.

Pieterse, E. (2011) “Recasting urban sustainability in the South”, Development, 54(3): 309-316.


I am deeply immersed in developing curriculum for a new Masters degree in Urbanism that is due to be launched in 2018. This initiative seeks to create a pathway for a next generation of urban scholars from Africa rooted in a postcolonial Southern perspective.

I teach on the Masters Programme linked to the ACC, entitled: Urban Infrastructure: Design and Management, offered in the EBE Faculty. My teaching inputs are made in two modules of the MA. The first one is titled: “Developing Cities: Sustainable Urban Transitions”; and the second: “Urban Renewal”. See:

Outside of UCT, in my capacity as Visiting Extraordinary Professor at the University of Stellenbosch, I teach a Masters Module on “Sustainable Cities” with Professor Mark Swilling. This module forms part of a MA in Sustainable Development offered by the School of Public Management and Planning and the Sustainability Institute. See:

I am also attached to the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership, which provides leadership development programmes, dialogues and other learning services for senior individuals and major organisations around the work so that they can respond creatively to global challenges. Specifically, occasionally I participate as a member of Faculty on their flagship course: “Business and the Environment Programme”. See:

I supervise six PhD students, one MPhil student and three Post-Doctoral candidates.

Research and Civic Affiliations:

I am a member of the Scientific Committee of the International Panel on Social Progress and the Research Advisory Committees of: the Gauteng City-region Observatory, the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, and LSE Cities. I was a founder member of Isandla Institute where I acted as a board member until October 2016, and I serve on the Board of the Open Society Foundation of South Africa.