Professor Edgar Pieterse is the founding director of the African Centre for Cities (ACC) at the University of Cape Town. His research and teaching explore urban imaginaries, alternative futures, sustainable urban infrastructure, place-making, public cultures, responsive design and adaptive governance systems. He publishes different kinds of text, curate exhibitions, as well as difficult conversations about pressing urban problems. Since the founding of ACC, he has published two books, City Futures (Zed, 2008) and New Urban Worlds (Polity, 2017, with AbdouMaliq Simone), as well as nine co-edited books, dealing with a wide-ranging set of topics related to contemporary urbanism and place-making.

Professor Pieterse’s scholarship is animated by a need to make sense of the ways in which climate change, multi-dimensional inequality, informality, governance and technology intersect in urban spaces, especially in Africa and cities of the global South. Of course, this sensemaking is somewhat futile due to the implied complexities, but also essential to figure out what a grounded, yet radical imagination of alternative urban futures might entail. More pointedly, he is curious what multiple solutions and pathways for advancing sustainable and vibrant cities might involve as acts of exploration and doing. Thus, his research is informed by emergent experiments with alternative forms of doing, organising, regulating and social narration. Conceptually, he locates his research, teaching, and curatorial work at the intersection of critical urban theory, open systems approaches, design-based methods, technological intermediation and aesthetics.

His practice is structured around three inter-dependent streams: research, teaching and curation. Current research is focused on: i) transforming African urban futures through the adoption of sustainable infrastructure approaches and its enablement through alternative regulation, finance and governance; ii) developing a fit for purpose institutional model to mainstream city-level innovation ecosystems; iii) delineating an ‘urban disposition’ in terms of research and practice that can contend with the inherent complexity and urgency of city making amidst multiple emergencies that truncate development prospects.

Teaching happens trough: i) the nurturing of leadership skills among African mayors through the African Mayoral Leadership Initiative (Amali); ii) producing ‘system integrators’ that are equipped with the skills of advancing integrated urban interventions that can advance sustainability and inclusivity through the Masters in Sustainable Urban Practice; iii) developing the next generation of urban scholars through the MPhil in Southern Urbanism. Professor Pieterse supervises various doctoral and post-doctoral candidates.

Curatorial work is done in collaboration with Tau Tavengwa and they ply their trade through the Cityscapes platform. Their practice is finalising an exhibition on multiple pathways through urban complexity that will manifest as decentralised installations in the second half of 2023. They are also working on the second season of the Podcast, The City Show and preparing a new body of work under the rubric: Museum for the City, to commence in 2024.

Professor Pieterse’s practice is enriched through active engagement with various global think tanks and research centres that share a commitment to system transformation and fostering radical imaginations: Bauhaus der Erde (Berlin); Club of Rome; 10X100 Forum; Social Science Research Council (New York); The Science Circle of the Robert Bosch Stiftung (Stuttgart); LSE Cities (London); Indian Institute for Human Settlements (Bangalore); Gauteng City-region Observatory (Johannesburg); The Global Cities Programme of CIDOB – Barcelona Centre for International Affairs; Pathways to Sustainability – Utrecht University; United Nations Innovation Technology Accelerator for Cities (UNITAC-Hamburg); and the Ubuntu Board of United Cities and Local Government (Barcelona).


Recent Publications


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

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. (2017) “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. (2017) Urban Governance and Spatial Transformation Ambitions in Johannesburg, Journal of Urban Affairs. Doi:

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.