University of Basel Postdoctoral Fellowship in Urban Studies

Research Project PRECURBICA

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The University of Basel, Switzerland, invites applications for one postdoctoral research position in Urban Studies, as part of the following research project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation: PRECURBICA: Precarious Urbanisms in Coastal Africa.
With accelerating urbanization, strategies to address the climate crisis in cities are urgently needed. Yet African cities, scripted as the 'most vulnerable' to climate risk, remain largely invisible in current debates about urbanism and climate change. As long as conversations about urban adaptation are based on a generic 'global city', the proposed solutions will be capital-intensive and premised on the promise of rapid, smart technological advances. Yet such techno-utopias are out of reach for a majority of the world's growing urban population.
To bridge this gap, PRECURBICA reverses the perspective and centres African actors on the same analytical plane as the 'global' urban planners and policymakers that typically dominate these debates. Rather than seeing urban 'precariousness' as an endemic condition that mires African societies in a position of dependency, the project takes it as an invitation to uncover strategies of living and making the city in the face of looming crisis, and learn from these. Cities are spaces of aspiration and possibility. Because of Africa's history in the world, however, African coastal cities also stand at the sharp edge of global change: in addition to seaborne environmental threats, the tensions between the competing imperatives of growth-based development and climate change mitigation are thrown into stark relief.
The project will ethnographically investigate the impact of climate risk on social and infrastructural processes in four African coastal cities: Pointe-Noire, the Republic of Congo; Cotonou, Benin; Freetown, Sierra Leone, and Beira, Mozambique (the latter is PI's own case study). The project is attached to the Urban Studies division of the University of Basel, in collaboration with the Centre for African Studies Basel.
Research findings will not only be relevant to the fields of urban studies, social anthropology, and critical development studies, but will also help build up new partnerships with research institutions in the cities under study, and yield insights for planners, policymakers, and architects currently engaged with urban adaptation to climate threats in Africa and beyond.

This is a full-time research position. Your research focus will be on climate risk and urban adaptation in Pointe Noire, Republic of Congo.

Candidates should hold a doctoral degree in social/cultural anthropology, urban studies, African studies, development studies, political/critical geography, or a related field of the critical social sciences, extensive ethnographic fieldwork and/or archival research experience in the region, and a publication record commensurate with their career stage. Academic proficiency in English and French is required; knowledge of Kituba/Kikongo/Lingala would be an extra asset. We encourage applications by African candidates for this position.

Your position is part of the SNF Eccellenza research project PRECURBICA (SNF Eccellenza Prof. Dr. Jon Schubert). We offer you a unique, interdisciplinary research environment within the division of Urban Studies, Department of Social Sciences, with the opportunity to develop your academic career and publication projects further and embark on a substantial new research project, with fieldwork. We offer mentoring and career development opportunities, with the optional possibility to teach your own courses post-fieldwork. The position is funded for three years (fixed-term), and scheduled to begin on 1 January 2023 or shortly thereafter. Salary corresponds to national pay scales and will allow you to cover your individual living and tuition expenses, and to commit yourself fully to your research project.

Application / Contact

Your application should include:

  • a motivation letter, specifying how you relate to the research theme, and how this position fits within your professional objectives (two pages max.);
  • a curriculum vitae incl. list of publications;
  • a copy of your diplomas (PhD and Masters);
  • one representative academic writing sample (published article or book chapter).

All materials should be submitted via online portal by 25 Sep 2022 – use the apply button below.
For additional information about the posts and the project, please contact Jon Schubert (
The University of Basel is an equal opportunity employer; women and minority candidates are strongly encouraged to apply. 

Application date
3 years
Humanities : Anthropology & Ethnology, Architecture and urbanism