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Academic Staff

Assoc Prof Zarina Patel




Associate Professor


Room 4.09

Tel: +27 21 650 4306

BSc (University of Natal), BSc (Hons.) (University of Natal), MSc (University of Natal), Ph.D. (University of Cambridge)

Academic Profile

Current teaching

EGS 4047F: Environmental Policy and Practice (Honours and Masters)

EGS 1003S: Geography, Development and Environment – Inequalities in resource access in urban areas (1st year undergraduate)

EGS 3022S: Geographical Thought – Environmental Knowledges (3rd year undergraduate)

EGS 3022: Course Convenor

Engaged Scholarship Programme: Core Team (University-wide programme for staff)


Research Interests

My research addresses the politics and practices of achieving just and sustainable urban transitions. The distinctive focus of my scholarship is the simultaneous use of transdisciplinary approaches to navigate alternate insights and responses to complex urban issues in southern contexts, whilst foregrounding the diversity of forms of knowledge that are recognised as authoritative within these debates.


International collaborations and research leadership have been developed through the Mistra Urban Futures Programme (2012 - 2019), the Global Futures Council on Cities and Urbanisation (2019), and Pan-African collaborations through the Leading Integrated Research for Agenda 2030, known as LIRA 2030 (current since 2017). I am editor-in-chief of Urban Forum and serve on the editorial boards of Local Environment: the International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, and Frontiers Sustainable Cities.


In 2018, I was the recipient of the Faculty of Science Engaged Scholarship Award; and I currently hold a Visiting Fellowship with the Urban Institute, University of Sheffield.


  1. Recent Peer Reviewed Publications


Culwick, C and Patel, Z. 2020. Building just and sustainable cities through government housing developments. Environment and Urbanisation, pp. 1-22 (DOI:10.1177/0956247820902661).


Day, K., Patel, Z., Rother, H.A. 2019. Applying Social Risk Theory to competing constructions of risk in Environmental Assessment. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 79 pp. (DOI:10.1016/j.eiar.2019.106312).


Culwick, C., Washbourne, C., Anderson, P., Cartwright, A., Patel, Z., Smit, W. 2019. CityLab reflections and evolutions: Nurturing knowledge and learning for urban sustainability through co-production experimentation. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 39 pp. 9-16. (DOI:10.1016/j.cosust.2019.05.008).


Perry, B., Patel, Z., Noren Bretzer, Y. and Polk, M., 2018. Organising for Co-Production: Local Interaction Platforms for Urban Sustainability. Politics and Governance, 6(1) pp. 189-198. (DOI:10.17645/pag.v6i1.1228)

Miszczak, S., and Patel, Z. 2018. The role of engaged scholarship and co-production to address urban challenges: A case study of the Cape Town Knowledge Transfer Programme. South African Geographical Journal pp. 1-16(DOI: 10.1080/03736245.2017.1409649)

Greyling, S., Patel, Z., and Davison, A. 2017. Urban sustainability disjunctures in Cape Town: learning the City inside and out. Local Environment: International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, 22(NoS1) pp.52-65 (DOI: 10.1080/13549839.2016.1223621)


Patel, Z., Greyling, S., Arfvidsson, H., Moodley, N., Primo, N., and Wright, C. 2017. Local responses to global agendas: the benefits of breaking with best practice in piloting the urban sustainable development goal in Cape Town. Sustainability Science, 12 pp.785-797 (DOI:10.1007/s11625-017-0500-y)


Culwick, C., and Patel, Z. 2017. United or divided: comparing approaches and achieving transdisciplinarity in disaster risk management, Area, 49(1) pp.43-51.


Oldfield, S., and Patel, Z. 2016. Engaging Geographies: Questions of power and positionality in knowledge production. South African Geographical Journal, 98(3) pp. 505-514.


Davison, A., Patel, Z., and Greyling, S. 2016. Tackling wicked problems and tricky transitions: Change and continuity in Cape Town’s Environmental Policy Landscape. Local Environment: International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, 21(9) pp. 1063-1081.


Simon, D., Arfvidsson, H., Anand, G., Bazaz, A., Fenna, G., Foster, K., Jain, G., Hansson, S., Evans, L.M., Moodley, N., Nyambuga, C., Okolo, M., Ombara, D.C., Patel, Z., Perry, B., Primo, N., Revi, A., van Niekerk, B., Wharton, A., and Wright, C. 2016.  Developing and testing the Urban Sustainable Development goals, targets and indicators – a five-city study. Environment and Urbanisation, 28(1) pp. 49-63.

Rose, J.T., James, A.K. and Patel, Z. 2016. Contesting the Edge: Analysing environmental decision making as it is represented in the media. South African Geographical Journal, 98(2) pp.235-253.

Patel, Z., Greyling, S. Parnell, S., Pirie, G. 2015. Co-producing urban knowledge: experimenting with an alternative to ‘best practice’ for Cape Town, South Africa. International Development Planning Review, 37(2) pp. 187-203.


Arendse, W. and Patel, Z. 2014. ‘No Messing in Bonteheuwel’: The role of social capital and partnership building in sustainable community development. Town and Regional Planning, 65 pp. 1-10.


Patel, Z. 2014. South Africa’s Three Waves of Environmental Policy: (Mis)Aligning the goals of Sustainable Development, Environmental Justice and Climate Change. Geography Compass, 8(3) pp.169-181.


Lawhon, M and Patel, Z. 2013. Scalar politics and local sustainability: rethinking governance and justice in an era of political and environmental change. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 31(6) pp. 1048-1062.


Fatti, C. and Patel, Z. 2013. Perceptions and responses to urban flood risk: Implications for climate governance in the South. Applied Geography, 36 pp.13-22.