event 09 Aug 2022

Job posting // Postdoctoral research position on the Governance of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus in the Cape Town metropolitan region

The Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning at Utrecht University is looking for a Postdoctoral Researcher to join the research project 'Nexusing Water, Energy and Food to Increase Resilience in Cape Town Metropolitan Region'. Apply before August 23, 2022.

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Job description

The project is led by Jochen Monstadt, Professor of Governance of Urban Transition, Utrecht University, and Mark Swilling, Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Development, Stellenbosch University. Partners in this project are the Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans, and Sustainability Law the University of Western Cape, the Western Cape Economic Development Partnership and ICLEI Africa.

This project critically explores the water-energy-food (WEF) nexus through three main points of departure: the first is to understand the multi-dimensional interaction of water, energy and food systems. The second is to assess how the water-energy-food nexus materializes in selected socio-spatial contexts in Cape Town. Thirdly, the aim is to understand the wicked governance challenges of mitigating, coping with, preparing for, and adapting to urban resource crises. Finally, the project will develop multi-scale procedural guidelines and policy briefs to inform ‘nexusing’ practices.

To achieve these objectives, the research adopts a complex systems approach which systematically addresses the multi-dimensional nature of the water-energy-food nexus. Through a multi-disciplinary approach and in close collaboration with societal partners, WEF ‘nexusing’ will be explored as a broader process-oriented approach to how resources do, and can, interact and be governed across siloed domains. This is a crucially important endeavor in the city of Cape Town which faces a triple exposure to interrelated water, energy and food crises. Through this expanded perspective, and emerging from the urgent need for concerted urban action, this broader view of ‘nexusing’ will be framed through the conceptual lens of urban resilience. The research will assess the vulnerabilities and resilience of complex system interactions to develop recommendations for coordinating resilience strategies that work complementary to existing governance arrangements.

As a member of the project, your research will focus on the institutional and socio-technical challenges shaping the governance of WEF nexuses in the Cape Town metropolitan region. On the one side, you will analyze how WEF systems are governed horizontally through the forms of, and barriers to, coordination and collaboration across siloed WEF domains. This involves an analysis of the institutional, socio-technical, political and spatial conditions that influence how water, energy and food providers, stakeholders from the private sector, civil society organizations, public officials and urban planners collaborate to increase the resilience of urban WEF systems. On the other side, you will explore the territorial governance of WEF systems, i.e., how potential mismatches between municipal/provincial jurisdictions and geographies of water, energy and food systems shape effective resilience strategies. Research methods include policy, institutional and socio-technical analyses, interviews with key stakeholders and multi-stakeholder workshops. The research will be conducted complementary to legal analyses of multi-level governance of WEF systems, metabolic flow analyses as well as analyses of economic and livelihood strategies in six neighborhoods across the metropolitan region.

You will be based at Utrecht University and closely collaborate with fellow researchers in South Africa. Besides conducting empirical research and publishing, you will also be partly responsible for the coordination of the consortium, the support and guidance of PhD candidates in South Africa and the organization of research and outreach activities in South Africa. At the same time, you will have limited teaching responsibilities in the bachelor’s program ‘Human Geography and Spatial Planning’ and in the master’s program ‘Spatial Planning’.


Successful candidates will have a PhD degree and/or postdoctoral experience in the field of urban and/or regional planning, sustainability and/or infrastructure governance, human geography, political sciences, international development studies, or a related field. As the successful candidate, you will have experience in qualitative methods, working across disciplinary boundaries, conducting interviews and co-organizing workshops.

Proven expertise in the study of urban and/or environmental governance is an advantage. You are willing to travel to South Africa to conduct field work (if the COVID-19 situation allows), and have experience with field work in the global South, preferably in South African cities. You are able to work independently and are highly motivated to produce high-impact academic and policy-relevant outputs.

Apart from possessing excellent research and academic skills, you need to have strong affinity and/or experience with transdisciplinary research to engage societal actors (i.e., public officials and civil society organizations) in research and outreach. You need to possess strong organizational, coordination and communication skills and be a good team player with affinity to work in an international research environment, because you will also be involved in the coordination of the project.


Everyone deserves to feel at home at university. Utrecht University welcomes employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

If you have the expertise and the experience to excel in this role, then simply respond via the 'Apply' button. Applications should include:

  • a motivation letter;
  • a Curriculum Vitae;
  • the names of at least two referees (with e-mail contact addresses and phone numbers).

The application deadline is 23 August 2022.

Submit your application online.

Further information

For more information about this position, please contact: Jochen Monstadt (Professor of Governance of Urban Transitions) or Dr. Shaun Smith (Assistant Professor).

For more detailed information please visit the orgiginal positing at the Utrecht University website.

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