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Ruth Massey (MSc, PhD)

Ruth Massey (MSc, PhD)

Post-Doctoral Research Associate

Ruth is an Urban and Development Geographer whose core research interests lie in understanding governance and social dynamics within low-income communities in the Global South using the lens of housing and energy infrastructure


Before joining the University of Cambridge Ruth was a Senior Lecturer at the University of the Free State in South Africa where she taught Urban Studies in the Department of Geography and the Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

Much of her research over the past few years has focused on governance, governmentality and social networks within low income settlements in South Africa.

She has also researched and published on aspects of pro-poor urban renewal - particularly the upgrading of informal settlements and the regeneration of post-apartheid townships.

Her current work seeks to understand the dynamics that exist between stakeholders in the delivery of energy innovation to low income communities in India and South Africa. This work is funded by the British Academy and led by Dr Charlotte Lemanski in the Cambridge Geography Department.


  • University of the Free State (UFS). Department of Geography. Lecturer and then Senior Lecturer (January 2013 to January 2018)
    • Teaching responsibilities: Department of Geography
      • Applied Urban Development – 3rd year
      • Urban Studies – 4th year
      • Theoretical Principles in Geography – 4th year
    • Teaching responsibilities: Department of Urban and Regional Planning
      • Research in Urban Development Theory – 4th year (team teaching)


  • PhD (Geography and Environmental Studies) (2013), University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.
  • Master of Science (MSc) (Geography) by Research (2008), University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.
  • Bachelor of Spatial Planning, Honours (Urban and Regional Planning) (2017), University of the Free State, South Africa. Subjects with distinction: Basic Practice in Urban and Regional Planning, Land Use Management, Research in Economics for Planners.
  • Bachelor of Arts, Honours (Geography) (2003), University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.
  • Bachelor of Arts (2000-2002), University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa – Majors: Geography (with distinction in 3rd year) and Archaeology.

Awards and scholarships

  • Urban Studies Foundation (USF), International Fellowship (2016)
  • Vice-Chancellor's Prestige Scholars Programme (PSP) (2016 - 2017) (University of the Free State)
  • African Centre for Cities (ACC) Cape Urban Observatory (CUO) PhD Scholarship - University of Cape Town (2009)
  • University Post-Graduate Merit Award Bursary (Honours and Masters) (University of the Witwatersrand) (2003 and 2004)
  • Jonathan Griffiths Postgraduate Scholarship for Outstanding Academic Record (University of the Witwatersrand) (2003)


Ruth is currently part of a British Academy funded project (led by Dr Charlotte Lemanski) which explores how low-income communities, private energy entrepreneurs, and government (at various scales) work in contestation and collaboration to devise and deliver affordable domestic energy that meets the long -term needs and aspirations of low-income households in Bangalore (India) and Cape Town (South Africa).


  • Cloete, J. and Massey, R. 2017: Seshego: An unexpected suburb. South African Geographical Journal 99(2) 152 – 165.
  • Gunter, A. and Massey, R. 2017 Renting Shacks: Tenancy in the informal housing sector of the Gauteng Province, South Africa. Bulletin of Geography. Socio–economic Series 37 (2017) 25–34.
  • Massey, R., and Pretorius, A., 2017: The Green Box project: environmental education in a crate. Journal of Geography Education in South Africa 2(1) 8 -16.
  • Massey, R. 2017: The effect of informal settlement upgrading on women's social networks: layout versus location. Urban Forum 28(2) 205 - 217.
  • Massey, R. 2015: Integral Theory: a Tool for Mapping and Understanding Conflicting Governmentalities in the Upgrading of Cape Town's Informal Settlements. Urban Forum 26(3) 303-319.
  • Massey, R. 2014: Exploring counter-conduct in upgraded informal settlements: The case of women residents in Makhaza and New Rest (Cape Town). Habitat International 44 (2014) 290 – 296.
  • Donaldson, R. du Plessis, D., Spocter, M., and Massey, R. 2013: The South African area-based urban renewal programme: experiences from Cape Town. Journal of Housing and the Built Environment Vol. 28(4). Special Issue – Twenty years after the repeal of the Group Areas Act: Housing, spatial planning and urban development in post-apartheid South Africa.
  • Massey, R. 2013: Competing rationalities and informal settlement upgrading in Cape Town, South Africa: a recipe for failure. Journal of Housing and the Built Environment Vol. 28(4). Special Issue – Twenty years after the repeal of the Group Areas Act: Housing, spatial planning and urban development in post-apartheid South Africa.

External activities

  • Affiliate member of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) (2017 – current)
  • Associate of the Centre for Research on Higher Education and Development (CRHED), University of the Free State (2017 - current)
  • The Society of South African Geographers (SSAG) – member (2012 - current)