My academic expertise concerns the human engagement with dying, death and bereavement in contemporary Europe. I conduct empirical research into various death practices, beliefs and places, such as funerals, bereavement rituals and natural burial grounds. Religion and meaning-making are key themes in my research. Moreover, my expertise is in ritual studies. In addition to death rituals, I focus on rituals in health care and spiritual care.
My research is interdisciplinary. I work with theories and methods from the psychology of religion, anthropology, and human geography. Lived practices, places and meanings are central to my work, and I employ qualitative and ethnographic research methods. I also have experience with mixed methods research (combination qualitative & quantitative).
Research that makes a difference
I’m passionate about exchanging knowledge with general and professional audiences. I write popular books and publications, give public lectures and participate in creative projects, such as podcasts. I provide training courses for professionals in death care, health care and spiritual care. In addition, I have developed teaching methods and modules for higher education. Also, I work as a consultant for local and national government, for instance regarding funerary legislation and policy.
Here you find an overview of my books and articles.
Feel free to contact me to book public lectures, training courses or other collaborations.
Current research projects
My current (2021-2025) NWO Veni research project, titled ‘Dying to be Green’, investigates natural burial in the Netherlands. Natural burial grounds and other sustainable death practices, such as alkaline hydrolysis (resomation), are becoming increasingly popular. However, we know little about the meaning and diversity of these practices. Therefore, I am systematically mapping the emergence of natural burial in the Netherlands and examine how people from different backgrounds use and experience natural burial grounds. Based on this knowledge, the research also provides insight into human-nature entanglements.
Since 2018 I have been working on an AHRC-ESRC project, titled ‘Deathscapes and Diversity’. Together with colleagues, I examined cemetery and crematorium provision for religious and ethnic minorities in England and Wales. Our research showed, among other things, that inadequate funeral services result in social inequality, exclusion and a reduced sense of well-being.
Currently I am an Assistant Professor at the University of Groningen. I teach and supervise (BA, MA and PhD) students in the fields of religious studies, ritual studies and death studies. I also work as director of the Center for Religion, Health and Wellbeing. In addition, I am a lecturer at NOSTER, the Netherlands School for Advanced Studies in Theology and Religion. I obtained my PhD in religious studies at Radboud University (2017) for research into contemporary funeral and mourning rituals in the Netherlands.
As an associated researcher I am affiliated with the Center of Death and Life Studies at the University of Durham (UK). In addition, I am an ambassador for the Association for the Study of Death and Society (UK) and a member of the European Network on Death Rituals (CH). In the Netherlands, I am a member of the Funerary Academy steering committee and the DONE Network.