Romain Dittgen holds a PhD in Human Geography from the University of Paris 1 (Panthéon-Sorbonne), and is currently a Post-doctoral Fellow (Life in the City Research Grant) jointly hosted by the African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS) and the South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning (SA&CP) at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.
In his research, often comparative, he has mostly been interested in studying the effects of various forms of capital on economies and societies in Africa. His main focus has been centred on understanding the spatial dynamics of Chinese actors in African contexts, stretching from company behaviour in the extractive sector (both oil and mining) to the unfolding of business activities by small-scale entrepreneurs. Prior to his current fellowship, he held positions as Senior Researcher at SA&CP, the South African Institute of International Affairs (both at Wits University), as joint post-doctoral visiting fellow at the African Studies Centre and the International Institute for Asian Studies (both located in Leiden, the Netherlands) and as Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Geography at the University of Paris 1.
Having conducted research in several African countries (Chad, Ethiopia, Gabon, South Africa and Senegal) as well as in China, his areas of attention range from urban imaginaries and perceptions of foreign actors (primarily Chinese), transnational urbanism and adaptive capital, governance of future cities to the comparative study of large-scale developments in Africa and in China. His current research/book project, conducted in collaboration with Dr. Gerald Chungu and photographer Mark Lewis, explores the Chinese influence in shaping the built environment and urban practices in Johannesburg and in Lusaka.