Sophie Oldfield is an urban and human geographer with a focus on cities in the Global South through her theoretical and primary research and as co-editor of the path breaking Routledge Handbook on Cities of the Global South (Routledge, 2014). She held the University of Basel–University of Cape Town Professorship in Urban Studies, based at the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town from 2016 – 2021.

Her research is grounded in empirical and epistemological questions central to urban theory. Focusing on housing, informality and governance, mobilization and social movement organizing, and urban politics, her work pays close attention to political practice and everyday urban geographies, analysing the ways in which citizens and organized movements craft agency to engage and contest the state. She has a track record of excellence in collaborative research practice, challenging how academics work in and between “university” and “community.” 

She served as president of the Society of South African Geographers from 2012 to 2014 and helping to establish and develop the Southern African City Studies Network from 2007 to the present. 

She was awarded a Fellowship of the Society of South African Geographers in 2020. 


  • S. Oldfield (2007). Who’s Serving Whom: Partners, Processes and Products in Service Learning Projects in South African Urban Geography. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, forthcoming.
  • S. Oldfield (2007). Teaching through Service-Leaning Projects in Urban Geography Courses at the University of Cape Town. In: Higher Education Quality Committee/ JET Education Services. Service-Learning in the Disciplines: Lessons from the Field. Pretoria: Council on Higher Education.
  • Oldfield, S. & Stokke, K. (2006). Polemical Politics, the Local Politics of Community Organising, and Neoliberalism in South Africa. In Peck, J., Leitner, H., & Sheppard, E. Contesting Neoliberalism: The Urban Frontier. Connecticut: Guildford Press.
  • Oldfield, S. & Stokke, K. (2006). Building Unity in Diversity: Social Movement Activistm in the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign. In: Habib, A., Valodia, I., & Ballard, R. Globalisation, Marginalisation and New Social Movements. Durban: University of KwaZulu Natal Press, pp. 25-49.
  • Gervais-Lambony P., Landy F., and Oldfield S. (2005). Reconfiguring Identities and Building Territory in India and South Africa. New Delhi: Manohar. ISBN: 81-7304-666-2.
  • K. Peters and S. Oldfield (2005). The Paradox of ‘Free Basic Water’ and Cost Recovery in Grabouw: Increasing Household Debt and Municipal Financial Loss. Urban Forum, 16(4): 311-334.
  • S. Oldfield (2005). Moving beyond polemics: Civil society politics in South Africa. Critical Dialogue, 2(1): 12-19.
  • Oldfield, S. & Boulton, J. (2005). Through the Back Door: Young People’s Gendered Negotiation of the Housing Crisis in Cape Town, South Africa. In Mapetla, M, & Schlyter, A. Gender, Generations and Urban Living Conditions in Southern Africa. Roma, Lesotho: Institute of Southern African Studies, pp. 237-262.
  • Gervais-Lambony P., Landy F., and Oldfield S. (Eds) (2005). Reconfiguring Identities and Building Territory in India and South Africa. New Delhi: Manohar. ISBN: 81-7304-666-2. p. 1-9.
  • Oldfield, S. (2005). Urban Transition in South Africa. Negotiating Segregation. In: Gervais-Lambony P., Landy F., and Oldfield S. (Eds.). Reconfiguring Identities and Building Territory in India and South Africa. New Delhi: Manohar. ISBN: 81-7304-666-2. p. 325-342.
  • Stokke, K. & Oldfield, S. (2004). Social Movements, Socio-Economic Rights and Substantial Democracy in South Africa. In: Harriss, J., Stokke, K. & O. Törnquist (Eds.) Politicising Democracy: The New Local Politics of Democratisation in Developing Countries. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • S. Oldfield, S. Parnell and A. Mabin (2004). Engagement and Reconstruction in Critical Research: Negotiating Urban Practice, Policy and Theory in South Africa. Journal of Social and Cultural Geography, 5(2): 285-300.
  • S. Oldfield and K. Stokke (2004). Building unity in diversity: Social movement activism in the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign. Report for Globalisation, Marginalisation and Post-Apartheid Social Movements, Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu Natal, pp. 1-50.
  • S. Oldfield (2004). Intersecting urban networks, community organising, and race: An analysis of integration in a desegregated South African neighborhood. Geoforum, 35(2): 189-201.
  • S. Oldfield. (2004). Differentiation in South African and Indian Cities. Geoforum, 35(2): 143-144.
  • S. Oldfield (2003). Elos faltantes: Iniciativas de estado e de vizinhança contra o crime urbano na Africa do Sul. Cadernos, IPPUR/UFRJ, vol. XVI, n. 2, ago-dez. 2002, p. 135-157, Rio de Janeiro.
  • Millstein, M., Oldfield, S. & Stokke, K. (2003). uTshani BuyaKhuluma – The Grass Speaks: The Political Space and Capacity of the South African Homeless People’s Federation. Geoforum, Vol. 34: 457-468.
  • S. Oldfield (2003). Missing links: neighborhood and state initiatives against crime in Cape Town, South Africa. In Sassen, S. and Marcotullio, P., UNESCO Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, Volume on Urban Sustainability. New York: United Nations Press.
  • S. Oldfield. (2002). Local state restructuring and urban transformation in post-apartheid Cape Town. GeoJournal. Vol. 57(1-2): 39-47.
  • S. Oldfield. (2002) Partial formalisation and its implications for community governance in an informal settlement. Urban Forum, 13, 2: 102-115.
  • S. Oldfield (2002). Embedded Autonomy and the challenges of developmental local government. In Parnell, S., Pieterse, E., Swilling, M., and Wooldridge, D. (eds.) Democratising Local Government: The South African Experiment. Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press. 97-109.
  • S. Oldfield (2001). The South African state in transition: a question of form, function and fragmentation of education policy. In J. Pampallis and E. Motala, Education and Equity: The impact of state policies in South African Education. London: Ashgate (2002); South Africa: Heinemann (2001). 32-52.
  • S. Oldfield. (2000). The centrality of community capacity in state low-income housing provision in Cape Town, South Africa. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. 24(4): 858-872.
  • S. Oldfield and J.D. Robinson (2000). Transition in Southern Africa: Opportunities for Engagement. South African Geographical Journal. Vol. 82, No.1.
  • B. Lohnert, S. Oldfield, and S. Parnell (1998). Post-apartheid social polarisations: The creation of sub-urban identities in Cape Town. South African Geographical Journal. Vol. 80, No. 2: 86-92.
  • B. Lohnert, S. Oldfield, S. Parnell (1998). Politiques urbanines et identities locales dans la ville post-apartheid, Etude comparee de deux quartiers du Cap. Geographie et cultures. No. 28: 61-76.
  • S. Oldfield and S. Parnell (1998). Developmental Local Government in South Africa. Braamfontein, South Africa: The Urban Sector Network.
  • A.I. Samatar and S. Oldfield (1995). Class and Effective State Institutions: the Botswana Meat Commission. Journal of Modern African Studies. Vol. 33, No. 4: 651-668.