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Academic Staff

Assoc Prof Zarina Patel




Senior Lecturer

Honours Convenor

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 4048S: Environmental Policy and Practice (Honours and Masters)

EGS 1003S: Geography, Development and environment (1st year undergraduate)

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

Research Interests
My research is concerned with the multiple dimensions of the meaning and practice of sustainable development at the city scale. This agenda is driven by evidence that suggests that in spite of supportive policy frameworks promoting sustainability in South Africa (and elsewhere in both the North and South), the poor and the natural environment continue to be marginalised in decision making. Whilst South African cities and their respective policy processes have been the geographical focus of my research, teaching and supervision, the theoretical application pivots around three interrelated areas which contribute to international debates, including: a) urban knowledge  b) urban governance and c) tools for decision making. In all three themes, environmental justice is a common organising principle used to understand how processes of inequality are perpetuated as a means of identifying more viable pathways.

Using an engaged and applied approach to research, my concern with the justice implications of the gap between policy and practice has focussed on the three themes of urban knowledge, urban governance and tools for decision making. The urban knowledge theme is based on the premise that the goal of sustainable development is both a constructed and contested, rendering its practice political. Understanding how policy discourses emerge, are maintained, and to what effect are key questions underpinning this theme. The institutional perspective offered through this approach in turn forces an analysis of urban governance, which allows for the tracing of stakeholder arrangements and influences in shaping local outcomes. A governance perspective allows for an analysis that extends beyond the institutions negotiating policy positions, to uncover the often ‘invisible’ influences affecting positions taken by local institutions. How stakeholders leverage influence is the focus of the third theme on tools. Here the power vested in tools and methods in sustainability policy and its implementation are the focus. These themes do not sit discretely, as they are often used in combination to understand the complexity of urban policy formulation and implementation.

Publications in Accredited Journals

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. 2015.  Developing and testing the Urban Sustainable Development goals, targets and indicators – a five-city study. Environment and Urbanisation,  DOI: 10.1177/0956247815619865

Davison, A., Patel, Z., and Greyling, S. 2015. Tackling wicked problems and tricky transitions: Change and continuity in Cape Town’s Environmental Policy Landscape. Local Environment: International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, DOI: 10.1080/13549839.2015.1066321

James, A.K., Rose, J.T., and Patel, Z. 2015. Contesting the Edge: Analysing environmental decision making as it is represented in the media. South African Geographical Journal, DOI: 10.1080/03736245.2015.1028979

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.

Mwalukomo, H. and Patel, Z. 2012. Chieftaincy and Democratic Local Governance in rural South Africa: Implications for Natural Resource Management. Development Southern Africa, 29(2) pp.259-272.

Long, D, and Patel, Z. 2011. A new theory for an age-old problem: Ecological Modernisation and the production of nuclear energy in South Africa. South African Geographical Journal, 93(2) pp.191-205.

Patel, Z. 2009. Environmental Justice in South Africa: Tools and Tradeoffs. Social Dynamics. pp.94-110.

Koch, I., Vogel, C., Patel, Z. 2007. Institutional dynamics of climate change adaptation in South Africa. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 12 pp.1323-1339.

Patel, Z. 2006. Of Questionable Value? The role of practitioners in building sustainable cities. Geoforum 37pp.682-694.

Patel, Z. 2006. Editorial: Africa, a continent of hope? Local Environment: International Journal of Justice and Sustainability Special Issue 'Sustainability: Local Action in Africa' 11(1)pp.7-15.

Van der Merwe, C.D., and Patel, Z. 2005. Understandings of urban regeneration, heritage and environmental justice at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg. Urban Forum 16(2-3)pp.244-258.

Patel, Z. 2005. Understanding environmental change in South African cities: A landscape approach. Transformation 57pp. 24-40.

Patel, Z. 2003. Pouvoir, Espace et Peripherisation en Matiere de Decision Environnementale: le cas de Durban-Sud. Les Temps Modernes Annee 58(623) pp. 252-272.

Hamann, R., Patel, Z., and Pressend, M., 2002. Competing Visions and Conflicting Priorities: A Southern African Perspective on the World Summit. Environment Vol 44(6) pp.8-21.

Patel, Z. 2000. Re-thinking Sustainable Development in the post-apartheid reconstruction of South African Cities. Local Environment, Vol 5(4) pp. 383-399.

Oelofse, C. and Patel, Z. 2000. Falling through the net: sustainability in Clermont township, Durban. South African Geographical Journal, Vol 82 (2) pp.35-43.

Patel, Z. 1996. The 'Brown Agenda': Environment and Development in Cato Manor. Indicator South Africa, 13(3), pp. 84-88.

Patel, Z. 1996. Women and Environmental Management. Agenda, (29), pp. 66-71.

Morris, M., Patel, Z., and Byerley, M. 1996. Violence and Sustainable Development in the Durban Metropolitan Area. Urban Forum 7(2), pp. 183-202.

Chapters in Peer-Reviewed Books

Smit, W., Lawhon M, and Patel, Z.,. 2015. Co-producing knowledge for whom, and to what end? Reflections from the African Centre for Cities in Cape Town. In: Ed. M. Polk. Co-producing knowledge for sustainable cities: Joining forces for change. London: Routledge, London, pp.47-69.

Patel, Z and van der Merwe, C. 2013. Constitution Hill: Just Space or Space of Justice? In Temple, N., Tobe, R., and Simon, J. (eds) Architecture and Justice: Judicial Investigations. Ashgate, London pp. 115-130.

Patel, Z. 2008. Tools and Tradeoffs in environmental decision making. In Parnell, S., Pieterse, E., Swilling, M., Wooldridge, D., and van Donk, M. (eds) The Developmental Local State: Lessons from Theory and Practice. Cape Town, UCT Press pp.357-376.

van der Merwe, C.D., and Patel, Z. 2007. Understandings of urban regeneration, heritage and environmental justice at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg. In Rogerson, C.R. and Visser, G. (eds) Urban Tourism in the Developing World. New Brunswick, NJ and London, Transaction Press pp.293-306.

Patel, Z. 2004. Environmental Values and the Building of Sustainable Communities. In Pieterse, E. and Meintjies, F. (eds) Voices of the Transition: Perspectives on the Politics, Poetics and Practices of Development. Johannesburg, Heinemann Publishers pp. 282-292.

Hindson, D. and Patel, Z. 1999. Sustainable Development in South African Cities: Searching for a new approach. In Gervais, P, Jaglin, S, and Mabin, A. (eds.) La question urbaine en Afrique australe; perspective de recherche. IFAS and Karthala, Johannesburg and Paris, pp. 259-285.

Lund, F and Patel, Z. 1995. Socio-economic Context of Health. South African Annual Health Review, Health Systems Trust, and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Durban, pp. 17-26.