Dr Christien Klaufus

Assistant Professor
Research Theme: Human Geography, Urban Studies
Tel. +31 20 525 3249; Email:
Office hours: by appointment

Christien Klaufus joined CEDLA in April 2008 as Assistant Professor of Human Geography. She graduated in Architecture and Urbanism at Eindhoven University of Technology in 1993 and in Cultural Anthropology (cum laude) at the University of Amsterdam in 1999. In 2006 she received her PhD in Anthropology at Utrecht University. From 1999 to 2001 and from 2006 to 2008 she worked as a researcher at OTB Research Institute for Housing, Urban and Mobility Studies at Delft University of Technology, where she studied self-provided housing in The Netherlands.

Research interests

Christien’s research addresses two themes that are broadly related to what UN-Habitat calls the new urban transition in Latin America.
The first research line focuses on the drivers of urbanization in intermediate cities. Processes of peri-urbanization are analyzed within the context of transnational migration and remittance spending to understand how planned urban growth and urbanization-from-below contribute to the development of medium-sized cities. The project speaks to two strands of literature: 1) the role of architecture as a catalyst of social and cultural change; 2) the debates on the densification of peri-urban areas in the context of local planning capacities. Research has been conducted so far in Ecuador, Peru, Guatemala and El Salvador.

The second line of research encompasses the sustainability agenda’s effects on urban deathscapes. Latin American urban deathscapes are undergoing changes to increase the efficiency of scarce urban land; to meet norms for cleaner, healthier environments; and to develop decent and affordable dead-disposal for vulnerable groups. Considering that urban deathscapes are micro-cosmoses of larger urban societies, this project explores both urban policies and everyday practices and connects to a variety of debates on place-making, heritage conservation, gentrification, social inequality, urban violence, the power of the death industry, and environmental sustainability. The project started with case studies in Bogotá and Medellín, Colombia and is bound to include other Latin American metropolises in the near future.

Deathscape as Livelihood: Daily activities at Cementerio Virgen de Lourdes, Lima, Peru

Photographs: Roel Roscam Abbing; research and text: Christien Klaufus

Lima’s cityscape is shaped by the activities of people from the conos, former invasion areas that sprouted up in the Peruvian dessert in the late-twentieth century. Over the decades, self-help settlements in the urban periphery developed into relatively consolidated areas equipped with shops, restaurants, banks, discotheques – and cemeteries.
Cementerio Virgen de Lourdes, situated in the southern cone, stands out by its size and culturally exuberant celebrations. Informally created in the 1960s by newcomers who needed a place to bury their dead, the cemetery gradually expanded over the hills of Villa María del Triunfo. Self-help housing went hand-in-hand with the do-it-yourself construction of graves. Due to the need for cheap burial solutions in this city of eight million, the cemetery came to represent an informal deathscape model that soon appeared all over Lima.
Even today, food, drinks, music, flowers, and a large variety of memorial objects continue to be basic constituents of the daily activities performed at the cemetery. Local residents and grave owners create a living by selling drinks, snacks, crosses, head stones, flowers, candles, bread rolls, burial niches, or by offering services as musicians or lay priests. The commercial and cultural involvement of the local community has transformed the deathscape into a livelihood opportunity for many.

Please click here for the publications list of Dr Christien Klaufus