Human Geography

PamirsA farmer in Ravmeddara, a village in the Western Pamir Region of Tajikistan, ploughing his field to cultivate local species of wheat and barley. (Photo Credit: Qobiljon Shokirov)

Research at the 'Human Geography' unit of the Department of Geography at the University of Zürich focuses on processes of 'development' and change from local to global level, applying a range of contemporary theoretical approaches from social and new cultural geography. Ongoing research projects take place in Asia, East Africa and Switzerland, and are engaged with

  • challenges to rural livelihoods and the politics of development,
  • migration, asylum seeking, multi-locality and development,
  • spatial appropriation, nature conservation, and
  • geographies of youth, and
  • geographies of education.

Regarding teaching, the unit is engaged at the Bachelor (B.Sc.), Master (M.Sc.), and doctoral (Ph.D.) levels.

In collaboration with three institutions from two other Swiss universities, the unit has created a common doctoral programme on issues of global change, innovation, and sustainable development: the International Graduate School North-South.

New Publications



Keller, R. & Backhaus, N. (2017). Landschaft zwischen Wertschöpfung und Wertschätzung - wie sich zentrale Landschaftsleistungen stärker in Politik und Praxis verankern lassen. Bericht im Auftrag des Bundesamts für Umwelt BAFU. Zürich, Universität Zürich. Online (PDF, 13454 KB)



Keller, R., Keune, H. & Maynard, S. (2017). Where do IPBES delegates in Europe see challenges, needs, gaps and opportunities in policy uptake of “Nature’s contributions to people”?", Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, 1-9. Online



Crate, S., Ulrich, M., Ksenofontov, S. et al (2017). Permafrost livelihoods: A transdisciplinary review and analysis of thermokarst-based systems of indigenous land use, Anthropocene, 18, 89-104. Online



Bitzi, B. & Landolt, S. (2017). Unaccompanied minor asylum seekers – processes of subject formation and feelings of belonging in the context of educational experiences in Switzerland, Geographica Helvetica, 72, 217-226. Online



Ksenofontov, S., Backhaus, N. & Schaepman-Strub, G. (2017). 'To fish or not to fish': fishing communities of Arctic Yakutia in the face of environmental change and political transformations, Polar Record. Online



Hatcher, C. (2017). Making Property in Kyrgyzstan: Bishkek’s Urban Periphery as Redistributive Space, Central Asian Affairs, 4(2), 173-196. Online 



Wenner, M. (2017). Vulnerability, food aid, and dependency: Views from development geography, Hermeneutische Blätter, 1/2017, 158-170. Online



Graf, S. (2016). Diaspora tourism and the negotiation of belonging: journeys of young second-generation Eritreans to Eritrea, Ethnic and Racial Studies. Online



Graf, S. & Thieme, S. (2016). "We look similar and have the same geographical origin": translocal encounters of second-generation Eritreans with a new generation of refugees from Eritrea, Geographica Helvetica, 71, 331-340. Online



Poertner, E. (2017). Governing asylum through configurations of productivity and deterrence: Effects on the spatiotemporal trajectories of cases in Switzerland. Geoforum, 78, 12–21, in press. Online



Keller, R. (2016). Ökosystemleistungen in der Schweiz. Chancen, Risiken und Nebenwirkungen bei der praktischen Anwendung. Bern, Haupt, 149 S. Weitere Infos & Bestellung



Lund, J. F., Sungusia, E., Mabele, M. B. & Scheba, A. (2016). Promising Change, Delivering Continuity: REDD+ as Conservation Fad, World Development. In: World Development, in press. Online



Wartmann, F., Haller, T. & Backhaus, N. (2016). Institutional Shopping for Natural Resource Management. In: Human Organization, 75(3): 218-229. Online



Mathieu, J., Backhaus, N., Hürlimann, K. & Bürgi, M. (Hrsg.) (2016). Geschichte der Landschaft in der Schweiz. Zürich: Orell Füssli. Publisher's Page and therein Backhaus, N., Hammer, T. & Siegrist, D. (2016). Wissenschaft, Politik, Planung. In: Mathieu, J., Backhaus, N., Hürlimann, K. & Bürgi, M. (Hrsg.) Geschichte der Landschaft in der Schweiz. Zürich: Orell Füssli, pp. 240–253.