Dr. Shaun Smith

Vening Meineszgebouw A
Princetonlaan 8a
3584 CB Utrecht

Dr. Shaun Smith

Universitair docent
Spatial Planning
030 253 7210

I am currently assistant professor in human geography and spatial planning and coordinator of an NWO-funded research grant which examines the Water-Energy-Food nexus in Cape Town, South Africa. This is a major collaboration between Utrecht University and several South African universities and societal partners. The project broadly seeks to understand how nexus approaches can be used to address the acute resilience challenges that Cape Town faces in the water, energy, and food sectors. My individual research looks at the governance coordination of those sectors. I am also part of several other research projects including the Transforming Infrastructures for Sustainable Cities (Utrecht - Pathways to Sustainability) hub, which scrutinises urban infrastructures through the lens of ‘transformative’ governance approaches, and UrbanHIT – Urban Heterogeneity and Infrastructure Transitions (NWO) which examines infrastructure heterogeneity in Tanzania and Mozambique. I was also previously the convener of the Master course 'Urban Infrastructures' in the Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning. I received my PhD in Geography from Royal Holloway, University of London in 2016. Before moving to Utrecht, I worked at University College London and the University of Sheffield (Urban Insitutute) in the UK.

My current research interests concern what I term 'cross-domain' governance. This concerns how infrastructure 'domains' (water, wastewater, and energy) are (or are not) coordinated and interconnected in multi-faceted ways. Focussing on the cases of Los Angeles, Maputo and Cape Town, I seek to understand what approaches cities are using to better coordinate such domains. In addition, I have extensive experience of conducting research on infrastructure access, energy justice, infrastructure heterogeneity, land tenure and landlord-tenant relations - predominantly in East and Southern Africa (Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa).


For my latest publication, please see the following;

S Smith, J Monstadt, K Otsuki (2022) Enabling equitable energy access for Mozambique? Heterogeneous energy infrastructures in Maputo's growing urban periphery, Energy Research & Social Science, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629622001888


Smith, S. (2021) Mobilizing heterogeneity: understanding the dynamic qualities and diversity of energy access in Maputo, Urban Geography [in press] https://doi.org/10.1080/02723638.2021.1959769

For more information concerning the ‘Nexusing Water, Energy and Food to Increase Resilience Cape Town Metropolitan Area’ project please consult the following link.


My research interests include;

  • Understanding infrastructure access/challenges in post-colonial cities
  • Infrastructural heterogeneity 
  • Energy justice
  • The politics and political economies of energy transitions in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Landlord-tenant relations, land tenure and the mediation of access to infrastructures
  • Cross-domain infrastructure governance
  • Urban resilience