Cemeteries and Crematoria as Public Spaces of Belonging in Europe: A study of migrant and minority cultural inclusion, exclusion and integration

Last changed: 14 September 2021
The memorial grove at St. Eskil's cemetary in Eskilstuna. Photo.

The project examines eight large NW European municipalities across six countries, with the purpose of improving understanding of varied meanings, uses and practices through dialogue and co-production of management strategies. This will enhance cross-cultural understanding and interaction, and inform planning for diversity-ready cemeteries. (EU funded HERA project–a collaboration between England, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden)

This project examines cemeteries and crematoria ‘gardens’ as public spaces of social inclusion, exclusion and integration, with particular reference to migrant and Established Minority experience, needs and provision, and how these intersect with established practices in the North West of Europe.

Cemeteries are multifunctional public spaces where funerary services are provided; they are ‘sacred’ in the widest sense; they are also frequently used as public parks. Thus, diverse residents converge on cemeteries as shared spaces of use. Misunderstanding and conflict can arise over diverse uses and meanings; alternatively, communities of shared experience and understanding can emerge. Thus, the use and management of these important but understudied public spaces can tell us much about the everyday lived experiences and negotiations of urban diversity, social inclusion and exclusion in multicultural NW Europe. Improving understanding of varied meanings, uses and practices through dialogue and co-production of management strategies will enhance cross-cultural understanding and interaction, and inform planning for diversity-ready cemeteries.

The project examines 8 large NW European municipalities across six countries. Each case study has a similar population (circa 110,000–150,000) and significant foreign-born/ ethnic minority populations. They cover a range of economic regions, have socially, culturally and ethnically diverse populations, including long-standing established ethnic minority communities and more recent EU and Third Country National (TCN) migrants.

Mixed participatory research methods will be used to study issues and experiences from multiple perspectives, including cemetery and crematoria providers, planners, civil society organisations and grassroots users.

The project will produce academic publications, policy–briefing reports and recommendations (co-produced with project participants and translated into multiple European and TNC languages) and a travelling exhibition with creative activities. This will provide feedback to municipalities and encourage ongoing dialogue between the providers and the varied users of these important and sensitive public spaces.


Project leader (PI) Sweden 

Carola Wingren, Professor, Division of Landscape Architecture, SLU

Project leader Europe:

Avril Maddrell, Associate Professor, Cultural Geography, University of Reading

Project participants

Helena Nordh, Researcher, Division of Landscape Architecture, SLU
Read more about Helena Nord on her CV page
Send an e-mail to: helena.nordh@slu.se

Christoph Jedan, Professor, Ethics and Comparative Philosophy of Religion, University of Groningen

Eric Venbrux, Professor, Comparative Religious Studies, Radboud University

Katie McClymont, Senior Lecturer, Urban Planning, University of the West of England, Bristol

Yasminah Beebeejaun, Associate Professor, Bartlett School of Planning

Tanu Priya Uteng, Senior Research Planner, Norway Institute of Transport Economics

Sonja Kmec, Associate Professor, History, University of Luxembourg

Project time


External funding (Sweden)

The Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet)