Natalie Schöbitz
Assistant / PhD candidate
Natalie Schöbitz
Philosophisch-Historische Fakultät
Departement Gesellschaftswissenschaften
FG Cupers

Assistant / PhD candidate

Petersgraben 52/Spalenvorstadt 2
4051 Basel

Tel. +41 61 207 67 04

Natalie has a background in social science and the built environment, holding an MSc in City Design and Social Science from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has 10 years of applied research experience in UX research and software development, which she leverages in her academic work in urban studies. In 2022, Natalie was awarded the Graduate School of Social Science Startup Stipend from the University of Basel to develop her doctoral research project on climate change adaptation in coastal African cities. Since then, she has been enrolled as a doctoral student at the university. Natalie's research interests fall under the broad themes of urban climate change, water infrastructure and African cities. Most recently she won the Doc.CH award by the Swiss National Science Foundation (2023 - 2027) to carry out her doctoral research in South Africa.

Research Project Description:

Climate change is here. Despite the imagery of an apocalyptic future that it calls to mind, the reality is an already unfolding, insidious and chronic disaster. Coastal African cities are at the forefront, underprepared and overexposed. Being faced with the inevitability of the crisis, it is imperative we look at and understand processes of adaptation that are already in action to better equip us for the challenges that lie ahead. In this context, the idea of radical incrementalism plays a crucial role. Written about as the process of bringing about change “through … surreptitious, sometimes overt and multiple small revolutions” (Pieterse 2008:6), yet there has been little empirical substantiation of the concept to date. To address this, this project seeks to operationalize radical incrementalism as a lens to account for both the trans-scalar forces involved in remaking cities at the sharp edge of climate change, and the mundane, everyday practices of coping with, and adapting to the crisis. By examining the effects of changing climate, global capital flows, and external climate policy prescriptions, this study explores how these tensions manifest in the coastal municipal regions of KwaDukuza/eThekwini, South Africa. Particularly exposed to urban flooding and steep internal migration across municipal lines, KwaDukuza/eThekwini provides a rich context for this locally grounded, longitudinal urban ethnography. Specifically, through “deep hanging out” this study traces the actions of water infrastructure workers who, despite their reputation as apolitical technicians, stand at the nexus of local politics, international development funding, and the recalcitrant materiality of creaking public infrastructures. By recognizing their daily operations as a form of adaptation, we can make visible the reality of climate disaster and, in turn, foster more accurate and sustainable governance in response to the disaster already underway.

Supervisor:  Prof. Dr. Jon Schubert
Co-Supervisors:  Prof. Dr. Kenny Cupers,  Dr. Prince K. Guma (Sheffield University)