Saskia Adelle Abrahms-Kavunenko

Saskia Adelle Abrahms-Kavunenko


Dr Saskia Abrahms-Kavunenko is an anthropologist and the author of Enlightenment and the Gasping City. She has published on the topics of Buddhism, shamanism, postsocialism, economic anthropology, global warming and pollution, and materiality in Mongolia and India. She has carried out extensive research on the relationship between Mongolian religion, doubt, pollution and the environment, specifically looking at Mongolian Buddhism. She is currently a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow within the Center for Contemporary Buddhist Studies at the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies at the University of Copenhagen and an Associate at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology. She is dedicated to the role of anthropologist as co-communicator and collaborative agent. Her work is situated at intersections between environmental changes and cultural praxis, in multi-scalar and trans-species contexts, and intends to render itself at the service of life.

Dr Abrahms-Kavunenko has recently carried out research projects at The University of Edinburgh, The University of Erfurt, New York University Shanghai and The Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology. Her current project titled: 'Residue: Mongolian Buddhist Waste and the Recalcitrant Materiality of Blessings’ will investigate how the use of mass-produced ritual items are changing patterns of Buddhist consumption, excess and waste in the contemporary period. The EU-funded project will trace the social lives of Mongolian Buddhist ritual items in order to demonstrate how the recent shift towards making ritual items from imperishable materials is transforming Buddhist praxis. The project will combine theories from anthropology, Buddhist studies and discard studies to explore how the material properties of ritual items, rather than being incidental to their use and conception, are integral to Mongolian Buddhist beliefs and practices. It will provide new insights into the generation and treatment of discarded items, drawing attention to the contemporary problems that industrial-scale consumption patterns are producing in Asia and around the world.

Past research projects include:

‘Materializing Prosperity: Doubt, Potency and Economic Prosperity in Ulaanbaatar’, The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, The University of Edinburgh, 2020.

‘Intangible Causes, Ambiguous Materials: Constellated Cosmologies of Urban Inequalities‘, Max-Weber-Kolleg, The University of Erfurt, 2019-2020.

‘Shrouded Fortunes: Materiality, Religion and Doubt’, New York University, Shanghai 2017-2019.

‘New Buddhist Economies in Mongolia: Accrual, Dispersal and the Vicissitudes of Wealth’, Postdoctoral Research Project working within the group ‘Buddhist Temple Economies in Urban Asia’ at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology 2014-2017.

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