Off-Grid Cities: Postdoctoral research fellowship call

  • GCRO
  • Date of publication: 16 April 2021

This is a call for applications for a PhD and two Postdoctoral Research Fellowship positions in the National Research Foundation (NRF) Off-Grid Cities project.

The Off-Grid Cities project focuses on how urban elites are seceding from state provided infrastructure networks in favour of private hybrid and off-grid technologies. These actions are transforming the provision and consumption of infrastructure in cities, with consequences for climate change and social justice. The project builds on the social justice literature and introduces it into climate change scholarship in the global South, recognising that the actions of one social group affect resource allocation in highly unequal cities, and that the infrastructures of elites tend to be absent from urban climate thinking.

Hence, the core objective of the project is to explore how elite infrastructure transitions need to be integrated into debates on, and practices of, producing cities that are environmentally sustainable and socially just. This will be done through a comparative analysis of electricity and water infrastructure in South Africa, focused on practices of elite households and businesses, as well as the policies and programmes of relevant government stakeholders responsible for this infrastructure.

We are currently recruiting one PhD and two postdoctoral researchers for this project. This is an exciting opportunity to join an international and multi-disciplinary research team situated across South Africa and the UK. You will work collaboratively with postgraduate students and established scholars based at the GCRO (Christina Culwick Fatti, Graeme Götz, Samkelisiwe Khanyile), University of the Witwatersrand (Margot Rubin), University of the Western Cape (Fiona Anciano, Laurence Piper), University of Edinburgh (SJ Cooper-Knock) and University of Cambridge (Charlotte Lemanski). There will be wide support to pursue opportunities for presenting research findings at academic conferences, as well as publishing in academic and popular outlets.

Postdoctoral research fellowship positions

There are two positions available, one located at the University of the Western Cape in the Department of Political Studies, in Cape Town, and the other at the Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO)*, in Johannesburg. These positions are offered for a period of up to three-years.

Successful candidates will be awarded funding of R300 000 annually for a period of two years (with potential for a third year, based on progress). Some additional expenses will be covered by the project where necessary (e.g. fieldwork costs, travel, laptop etc.). They will be expected to work on the Off-Grid Cities project as researchers whilst also publishing academic papers based on their PhD research. Candidates should satisfy the following requirements in order to be considered:

  • Hold a relevant Doctoral degree completed not more than 5 years ago;
  • Candidates must be 45 years of age or younger respectively in the year of application;
  • Relevant fields include geography, sociology, regional and urban planning, development studies, economics, and other disciplines related to the scope (above);
  • Be an outstanding and innovative researcher whose accomplishments have the potential to make a major impact in his/ her field;
  • Be experienced in qualitative research (data collection and analysis).

The following would be desirable:

  • Previous fieldwork experience in urban South Africa;
  • Published in refereed journals and/or book chapters (including in draft/press);
  • Delivered verbal presentations of previous work (e.g. conferences, workshops, teaching);
  • Be eager to work in a collaborative international team, while also capable of independently pushing forward the research agenda.

To apply for the GCRO fellowship (Johannesburg), kindly send your CV, cover letter, and academic transcripts to by 30 April 2021.

To apply for the UWC fellowship (Cape Town), kindly send your CV, cover letter, and academic transcripts to by 30 April 2021.

* The GCRO Postdoctoral Fellowship will be funded by the University of Johannesburg’s Faculty of Humanities as part of their strategic partnership with the GCRO.

PhD position

The PhD position available under this project will be located under the NRF Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand. We are looking for one PhD candidate, to be based at Wits (Johannesburg), who will be funded by the NRF through the Off-Grid Cities project.

Successful candidates will be awarded funding of R120 000 per annum, for a period of three years, subject to confirmation from the NRF. They will be expected to work on the Off-Grid Cities project as their PhD research.

Candidates must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Academic requirement of an average of 65% (Masters);
  • Applicants must be 32 years of age or younger respectively in the year of application
  • Write one page on your proposed topic and how it relates to the Off-Grid Cities project.
  • Only South African citizens may apply

To apply to WITS for the PhD position, please send your CV, letter, topic one page and academic transcript to by 7 May 2021


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