Dr Christien Klaufus

Senior Lecturer
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.

Societies worldwide are urbanizing at high speed. In 2050 almost 70 percent of the world population is projected to be urban. Advancing the planning of sustainable urban land use is an urgent theme. Infrastructure has to be provided to 6.4 billion people. This means that water, electricity and sewage systems will have to be improved and smarter mass transport systems to be developed. One of the basic human necessities not explicitly addressed in urban theories and policy prospects is the need for sufficient dignified spaces for dead disposal and commemoration, in other words ‘deathscapes’. The right to a dignified final destination is a basic human right. Yet, as part of the urban infrastructure, deathscapes tend to be developed rather haphazardly.
Two tendencies increase the need for more knowledge on urban deathscapes, and hence, for an integrated field of deathscape studies: first, the demographic transition underway in several regions that will result in an aging population; and second, the intention formulated in the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, specifically in Goal 11 to build more compact and high-density cities. Higher population densities in cities urge us to find more space-efficient solutions for dead disposal too. In practice, this will arguably result in an increasing separation between disposal spaces and commemoration spaces.
As one of the most urbanized regions in the world, Latin America figures prominently in the urban studies literature. In order to be better prepared for rapid urbanization processes taking place in other regions of the Global South, Latin American models are often used to exemplify desired and undesired policy outcomes. However, information about the development and transformation of urban deathscapes in Latin America is remarkably scarce, especially in comparison to the large amount of studies that have addressed deathscapes in Asian cities (e.g. Kong, 2012; Tan and Yeoh, 2002; Teather et al., 2001; Tremlett, 2007).
This interdisciplinary program aims to provide a grounded understanding of the ways in which deathscapes in cities have been developed in the recent past as part of urban space and society, and the ways in which they would need to be developed to safeguard socially and environmentally sustainable urban futures. The program considers the urban deathscape to be a relevant locus for research on cities and, vice versa, it posits that the future of cities depends in part on the question how the ‘cities of the living’ find new forms of co-existence with the ‘cities of the dead’; how deathscapes can potentially be or become formative sites of conviviality for the city at large. Planning and governing deathscapes in high-density urban areas touches upon a myriad of pressing themes that are integrally addressed in this project. +INFO

  • New Publication in open access

    Land in urban debates: Unpacking the grab–development dichotomy

    Femke van Noorloos (UU)
    Christien Klaufus (CEDLA-UvA)
    Griet Steel (UU)

    First Published September 11, 2018 Research Article


    On the heels of the rural ‘land grab’ debate, the ongoing urban transition combined with large-scale urban infrastructure investments and land scarcity forces us to also pay more attention to issues of land in urban discussions. Yet how can we conceptualise land-related problems in order to connect and integrate rural and urban debates in overarching discussions of development? In this commentary, we argue for moving beyond the directly visible outcomes and presumed ‘culprits’ of land investments by critically analysing indirect and long-term effects of land acquisitions on people’s livelihoods as well as the differentiation of these effects for different actors. We propose three specific arguments to disentangle the grab–development dichotomy: 1) placing a focus on the sequential chain of effects of displacement; 2) paying more attention to the ambivalent roles and contradictory interests of different actors; and 3) taking the three-dimensional aspects of land development into account. READ IT NOW

Deathscapes in Latin American Metropolises

How do increasingly cramped and overcrowded megacities, such as those in Latin America house the dead in their midst? And how do citizens use urban space to commemorate dead people? These and other questions guide Christien Klaufus’ research project Deathscapes in Latin American Metropolises discussed in this interview. LISTEN


Please click here for the publications list of Dr Christien Klaufus

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