Dr Idalina Baptista

Profile details


Idalina Baptista is associated with the DPhil and MSc in Sustainable Urban Development. She is a Fellow of Kellogg College and a member of the Oxford Network for the Future of Cities. She has taught on diverse themes relating to urban planning and environmental management at the University of California, Berkeley, the New University of Lisbon, Universidade Aberta, and Universidade Atlântica, in Portugal. She held a visiting position at the Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon and collaborated with colleagues at the New University of Lisbon on projects involving public participation in urban and environmental planning and policymaking. Her teaching and research are informed by past experience as an environmental planning consultant and as a member of an environmental NGO.

Idalina holds a PhD in City and Regional Planning (2009) and a Master of Landscape Architecture (Environmental Planning concentration) (1999) from the University of California, Berkeley, USA, and a 5-year BEng in Environmental Engineering (1996) from the New University of Lisbon, Portugal.


Idalina currently teaches in the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development on Urban Theory themes. She also contributes to teaching doctoral seminars in the DPhil in Sustainable Urban Development and in the Department's Graduate School.

Research interests

Her current research interests focus on the colonial and post-colonial geographies of urban energy infrastructure and urbanisation in African cities, using Maputo, Mozambique as a case study. Idalina’s work adopts a multi-perspective approach, drawing intellectual and methodological insights from a diversity of disciplinary fields, including urban studies/geography, anthropology, and science and technology studies. Through her research, Idalina seeks to deepen our understanding of African urbanization, the governance of urban infrastructures in Africa, and what urban livelihoods emerge as a result.

Idalina welcomes prospective doctoral students whose research interests match hers, whether their projects focus on Africa or elsewhere. She is particularly keen to supervise students who may be interested in any of the research lines outlined below:

(1) Governance of Electric Urbanism in Africa

This research line explores the governance of electricity services in cities in Sub-Saharan Africa. Idalina has been investigating the widespread turn to prepayment in electricity provision in the sub-continent as part of this research line.

The project Electric Urbanism – The Governance of Electricity in Urban Africa, uses the case study of Mozambique to examine how the transition to prepayment is re-shaping processes and practices of electricity production, distribution and consumption.

(2) Urban Electricity Practices in the Global South

Using a socio-technical and ethnographic perspective, this research line investigates everyday practices related to electricity infrastructures in contexts of weak infrastructure planning and provision, urban informality and poverty.

Idalina is currently involved in the project CESET - Community Energy and the Sustainable Energy Transition in Ethiopia, Malawi and Mozambique, a project led by Vanesa Castán-Broto at Sheffield's Urban Institute. The project explores how community energy operates at different scales, in order to understand its potential to address energy access challenges in a just and sustainable manner.

Previously, Idalina was involved in the project Sustainable Energy Access in Mozambique: Socio-political factors in conflict-laden urban areas, also developed in collaboration with Vanesa Castán-Broto (PI) and Joshua Kirshner (Co-I) and funded by the British Academy Sustainable Development Programme. Idalina was the leader of the project's Working Package 3 "Everyday processes of symbolic and economic violence constraining energy access," focused on how management practices of the electric network may enact forms of symbolic and economic violence that lead to inequality of service provision.

In the context of the Electric Urbanism project (see above), Idalina has been examining how prepayment is shaping access to electricity among lower income populations and how meters mediate practices of electricity consumption and other broader social practices and interactions.

(3) Colonial Urban Energy Landscapes

This research line examines the co-evolution of urban environments and energy infrastructures in colonial Africa as the product of historically contingent and context-specific socio-political processes.

Drawing mostly on archival research on urban services in colonial Maputo, Idalina is currently working on a number of articles and a book proposal on the electrification of Maputo, Mozambique since oclonial times.

(4) Urban Governance in Conflict and Crisis

This research line focuses on strategies to deal with contention, conflict and crisis in urban politics and governance involving a variety of urban problems.

Idalina's most recent project on Sustainable Energy Access in Mozambique: Socio-political factors in conflict-laden urban areas (see above), also looks at the ways in which conflicting agendas for electricity access are translated into specific modes of managing and planning Mozambique's national electric grid.

One past collaborative project, Understanding the Dynamics of Urban Flexibility and Reconstruction, investigated notions of ‘urban flexibility’ in cities facing situations of crisis. The project looked at the intersection between urban planning, governance and urban development in the context of hurricane management in Cancún, Mexico and malaria control in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Another past project, Regimes of Exception in Urban Planning and Governance: The Case of the Polis Program, Portugal, studied the use of regimes of exception to govern urban rehabilitation projects in Portugal. This project was Idalina’s doctoral dissertation and it focused on an in-depth study of the implementation of the Polis Program (Programa Polis), between 2000 and 2006, in two Portuguese cities where it faced considerable conflict (Costa da Caparica and Viana do Castelo). The study focused on understanding how and why policymakers are increasingly using regimes of exception to harness the uncertainty and complexities of urban development processes, often with unintended consequences.

(5) Knowledge for Sustainable Urbanisation

This research line focuses on the production, circulation and transfer of knowledge about what constitutes ‘good’, ‘just’ and ‘sustainable cities’.

Idalina is currently interested in examining what kinds of knowledge and methods of knowledge production are needed in order to effectively understand and address urbanisation trends across the African continent. Her approach to this topic seeks to unsettle the dominance of Anglo-American models of what constitute ‘good’ cities and develop a more localised understanding of African urban environments.

One past project, The ‘Unplanned’ Country – Narratives of ‘Disorderly’ Urban development, sought to understand the intellectual origins and scholarly construction of a narrative that arguably defines Portuguese urban development as unplanned, disorderly and chaotic.

Doctoral students

Yaseen Albarim

Patrick Brown


Shenga, C., L. Howe, I. Baptista, G. Gebreslassie, and M. Chitawo. 2024. Regulating Community Energy at the National Level: Comparing Ethiopia, Malawi and Mozambique. In: Cástan Broto, V. (ed.), Community Energy and Infrastructure Resilience. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan. Download

Baptista, I. 2024. Infrastructure Challenges: Thinking Infrastructure Differently for More Hopeful African Futures. In Handbook of African Economic Development, edited by Pádraig R. Carmody and James T. Murphy. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 448-461. Link

Kirshner, J. and I. Baptista. 2023. Corridors as empty signifiers: The entanglement of Mozambique's colonial past and present in its development corridors. Planning Perspectives 38(6): 1163-1184. Download

Baptista, I. and L.R. Cirolia. 2022. From problematisation to propositionality: Advancing southern urban infrastructure debates. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 47(4): 927-939. Download

Gebreslassie, M.G., C. Cuvilas, C. Zalengera, L.S. To, I. Baptista, E. Robin, G. Bekele, L. Howe. C. Shenga, D.A. Macucule, J. Kirshner, Y. Mulugetta, M. Power, S. Robinson, D. Jones, and V. Cástan Broto. 2022. Delivering an off-grid transition to sustainable energy in Ethiopia and Mozambique. Energy, Sustainability and Society 12, 23. Download

Canelas, P. and I. Baptista. 2021. Guerrilla urbanism, guerrilla governance: Governing neighbourhoods in "with-COVID" times. Town Planning Review 92(3): 279-284. Link

Baptista, I. 2020. Book review: "Age of Concrete: Housing and the Shape of Aspiration in the Capital of Mozambique," by David Morton. Journal of Modern African Studies 58(4): 676-677. Download

Kirshner, J., V.C. Broto, and I. Baptista. 2020. Energy landscapes in Mozambique: The role of the extractive industries in a post-conflict environment. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Society 52(6): 1051-1071. Download

Baptista, I. 2019. Book review: "Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change, and Urban Design in Abu Dhabi," by Gökçe Günel. Anthropological Quarterly 92(4): 1309-1312. Link

Baptista, I. 2019. Planning and Utopianism: Big Plans, Tweaks or Everyday Utopias? In Governing the Plural City, edited by Ash Amin. London, UK and New Delhi, India: The British Academy and the National Institute of Urban Affairs, pp. 27-32. Download

Baptista, I. 2019. Infrastructures and alternative presents: Speculative aspirations of cities (always) in the making. In Speculative Infrastructures and Cities In-the-making - A Workshop Magazine, edited by Jonathan Silver and Paula Meth. Sheffield, UK: Urban Geography, with the Urban Institute/SIID at the University of Sheffield and the Leverhulme Trust, pp. 43-45. Download

Baptista, I. 2019. Electricity services always in the making: Informality and the work of infrastructure maintenance and repair in an African city. Urban Studies 56(3): 510-525. Download

Baptista, I. 2018. Book review: "Democracy's Infrastructure. Techno-Politics and Protest after Apartheid," by Antina von Schnitzler. Africa 88(3): 636-637. Download

Broto, V.C., I. Baptista, J. Kirshner, S. Smith and S.N. Alves. 2018. Energy justice and sustainability transitions in Mozambique. Applied Energy 228: 645-655. Download

Baptista, I. 2018. Space and energy transitions in sub-Saharan Africa: Understated historical connections. Energy Research & Social Science 36(February): 30-35. Download

Baptista, I. and J. Plananska. 2017. The landscape of energy initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa: Going for systemic change or reinforcing the status quo? Energy Policy 110(November): 1-8. Download

Baptista, I. 2016. Maputo: Fluid flows of power and electricity - Prepayment as mediator of state-society relationships. In Energy, Power and Protest on the Urban Grid: Geographies of the Electric Grid, edited by Andrés Luque-Ayala and Jonathan Silver. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. Link

Baptista, I. 2015. ‘We live on estimates’: everyday practices of prepaid electricity and the urban condition in Maputo, Mozambique. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 39(5): 1004-1019. Download

Baptista, I. 2015. Prepaid electricity in Maputo, Mozambique: Challenges for Urban Planning. In Urban Planning in Lusophone African Countries, edited by Carlos Nunes Silva. Farnham, UK: Ashgate. Link

Córdoba Azcárate, Matilde, I. Baptista and F. Domínguez Rubio. 2014. Enclosures within enclosures and hurricane reconstruction in Cancún, Mexico. City & Society 26(1): 96-119. Download

Baptista, I. 2014. Book review – African Cities: Alternative Visions of Urban Theory and Practice, by Garth Myers. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 35(1): 152-153. Download

Baptista, I. 2013. Everyday Practices of Prepaid Electricity in Maputo, Mozambique. Working Paper, Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, University of Oxford, UK. Download

Baptista, I. 2013. The travels of critiques of neoliberalism: Urban experiences from the ‘borderlands’. Urban Geography 34(5): 590-611. Download

Baptista, I. 2013. Practices of Exception in Urban Governance: Reconfiguring Power Inside the State. Urban Studies 50(1): 37-52. Download

Baptista, I. 2012. How Portugal became an ‘unplanned country’: a critique of scholarship on Portuguese urban development and planning. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 36(5): 1076-1092. Download

Baptista, I. 2008. O Programa POLIS e o ‘País Desordenado’: percepções sobre governância e planeamento urbano em Portugal [POLIS Program and the ‘Unplanned Country’: perceptions on governance and urban planning in Portugal]. In: Cidade e Cidadania: Governança urbana e participação cidadã em perspectiva comparada [City and Citizenship: Urban governance and citizen participation in a comparative perspective], Cabral, M.V., T. Saraiva and F.C. Silva (eds). Lisbon, Portugal: Imprensa de Ciências Sociais. Link

Baptista, I. 2006. Citizen participation, stakeholder involvement, and the planning process in Portugal. L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui 366: 32–36.

Vasconcelos, L.T. and I. Baptista (eds). 2002. Environmental Activism in Society. Proceedings of the workshop held on 25–26 January 1999, organized by the Luso-American Foundation and Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Lisbon, Portugal: Luso-American Foundation for Development.

Oliveira, R. and I. Baptista. 2001. Guadiana Vivo: Uma Abordagem Participada ao Planeamento e Gestão do Parque Natural do Vale do Guadiana [Guadiana Vivo: A Participatory Approach to Planning and Management of the Guadiana Valley Natural Park]. Mértola, Portugal: ADPM, Associação de Defesa do Património de Mértola.