Professor Edgar Pieterse

Director: African Centre for Cities
Differential patterns of urbanisation; african urbanism; regional development policy; long-term strategic planning; cultural planning and politics
Professor Edgar Pieterse

Current Research Interests

My research circles around various aspects of the city; how to theorise it from the vantage point of emergent urbanisms in the global South but also how to think about meaningful policy discourses and interventions to make the city more just, open and accessible for all who choose to make it a place of dwelling or a node in an ongoing journey. Concretely, my research interests are very broad but are structured around the following themes allowing me to work across the theory/practice and local/global binaries.

  1. Differential patterns of urbanisation in the global South with an eye on finding more equitable and just policy responses rooted in the everyday practices of subaltern groups and classes. Research was for a book that was published by Zed Books in June 2008. Since then my research has shifted to policy frameworks and tools to assist public policy decision-makers to take cognisance of these dynamics and alter their assumptions and practices. This work feeds into my ongoing engagement with UN-Habitat, Cities Alliance, DBSA and the African Development Bank. The African Urban Innovations project of the ACC sits within this agenda. Presently this work is feeding into a forthcoming co-edited volume on Urban Africa due in mid 2012.

  2. African Urbanism: The aim of the research is to push emergent philosophies, social theories and discourses about the constitutive nature of 'informality' and 'emergence' in African cities beyond current conceptual limits to incorporate imperatives of renewal, remaking and normative ideals of equality, social justice and sustainable livelihoods without becoming reductionist. Methodology: a dialogue was constructed and sustained over three years between prominent African urbanists and artists whose work is focused on everyday urban experiences and practices. The process dwelled on the ontological and epistemological dimensions of creativity and thought processes in order to formulate new registers and frameworks to think the African city afresh in both theoretical and artistic terms. This work will manifest as an edited volume in mid 2012 and two special issues of Social Dynamics. Furthermore, the African Cities Reader initiative forms part of this research agenda. (see:

  3. Regional Development Policy & Long-term Strategic Planning: The economic role of metropolitan centres in South Africa is currently emerging as a major and growing area of policy development. I am part of a research network that is focused on a national research agenda on regional development in South/ern Africa for the next three years. This work was recently complemented with a study into the governance dimensions and ambitions of the Gauteng Global City Region initiative as part of a larger OECD territorial review. Since 2011, this work has taken a new direction. I am co-convening with Prof Mark Swilling (Sustainability Institute) an international comparative exploration into the role of sustainable infrastructure transitions in shaping the futures of city-regions.

  4. Cultural planning & politics: With my planning hat on, I am further working oncultural planning and its relevance for urban renewal strategies in cities of the global south. My case study focus is Johannesburg, specifically the inner-city area and the role of public art interventions within broader public policy effort to renew and recalibrate the area. A related dimension of this work is my recent involvement with the conceptualisation and production of the ACC magazine, CityScapes.

Recent Publications:

Edjabe, N. and Pieterse, E. (eds) (2011) African Cities Reader II: Mobilities & Fixtures. Cape Town: Chimurenga Press & African Centre for Cities.

Pieterse, E. (ed) (2010) Counter-Currents: Experiments in Sustainability in the Cape Town region. Johannesburg: Jacana.

Edjabe, N. and Pieterse, E (eds) (2010) African Cities Reader: Pan-African Practices. Cape Town: Chimurenga Press & African Centre for Cities.

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

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. (2011) "Recasting urban sustainability in the South", Development, 54(3): 309-316.

Pieterse, E. (2011) "Rogue Urbanisms: Introduction to Sympoisum on African Urbanism", Social Dynamics, 38(1): 1-4.

Pieterse, E. (2011) "Grasping the unknowable: coming to grips with African urbanisms", Social Dynamics, 38(1): 5-23.

Pieterse, E. (2010) "Cityness and African Urban Development", Urban Forum, 21(3), 205-19, 2010.

Pieterse, E. (2010) "Hip Hop Cultures and Political Agency in Brazil and South Africa", Social Dynamics, 36(2): 428–447.

Parnell, S. and Pieterse, E. (2010) "Realising the 'right to the city': institutional imperatives for tackling urban poverty", International Journal for Urban and Regional Research, Volume 34(1): 146–62.

Pieterse, E. (2009) "African reverberations of the Mumbai Attacks", Theory, Culture & Society, 26(7-8): 289-300.

Parnell, S., Pieterse, E., Watson, V. (2009) "Planning for Cities in the Global South: A Research Agenda for Sustainable Human Settlements", Progress in Planning, 72(2): 233-241.

Pieterse, E. and Gurney, K (in press) "Johannesburg: Investing in Cultural Economies or Publics?" in Helmut K. Anheier and Yudhishthir Raj Isar (eds) Cultural Policy and Governance in a New Metropolitan Age. The Cultures and Globalization Series. Volume 5. Sage Publishers.

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

Pieterse, E. (forthcoming) "Inclusion", in Ronan Paddison and Tom Hutton (eds) Cities and Economic Change. Sage Publishers.

Pieterse, E. (2011) "Building Brave New Worlds: Design and the Second Urban Transition", in Cynthia Smith (ed) Design for the other 90%: Cities. New York: Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

Gotz, G., Pieterse, E., Smit, W. (2011) "Desenho, limites e perspectivas da governança metropolitana na África do Sul" [Design, Limits and Prospects of Metropolitan Governance in South Africa], in Klink, J (ed) Governança das metropoles: conceitos, experiências e perspectivas [Comparative Perspectives on Metropolitan Governance for Brazil.] Sao Paulo: Annablume.

Manuel, T. and Pieterse, E. (2011) "Global Civics via Global Solidarity", in Altinay, H. (ed) Global Civics Responsibilities and Rights in an Interdependent World. Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press.

Pieterse, E. (2010) "Alternative City Futures", in Pinther, K. (ed) Afropolis. Koln: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Konig.

Pieterse, E. (2010) "Planning and Land-use Conflicts amidst the Search for Urban Integration: The Case of Wingfield", in B. Fruend & H. Witt (eds) Development Dilemmas in Post-Apartheid South Africa. University of Kwazulu Natal Press.

Pieterse, E. (2010) "Popular Youth Cultures and the Mediation of Racial Exclusion/Inclusion in Brazil and South Africa", in Kihato, C., M. Massoumi, B. Ruble, P. Subrirós and A. Garland (eds) Urban Diversity: Space, Culture, and Inclusive Pluralism in Cities Worldwide. Washington DC & Baltimore: Woodrow Wilson Centre Press & John Hopkins University Press, pp 187-211.

Pieterse, E. (2009) "Apartheid", in Hutchinson, R. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Urban Studies. New York: Sage.


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' (CIV5064Z); and the second: "Urban Renewal" (CIV5065Z). See:

I am also responsible for a PHD Seminar Series on African Urbanism and Sustainable Cities that spans across departments and faculties at the University of Cape Town.

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 programme: "Business and the Environment Programme". See:

Professor Pieterse's full biography can be found here.


Tel: +27 (0)21 650 5903
Fax: +27 (0)21 650 2383

Associated Centre: