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You are here: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2023/24 Dr. Saskia Abrahms-Kavunenko

Dr. Saskia Abrahms-Kavunenko

University of Copenhagen

External Senior Fellow (Marie S. Curie FCFP)
April 2024 - August 2024


Dr Saskia Abrahms-Kavunenko is an anthropologist and the author of Enlightenment and the Gasping City. She has published on the topics of plastics, global warming and pollution, doubt and materiality, Buddhism, shamanism, postsocialism, and economic anthropology. She has carried out extensive research on Buddhism and other religious traditions on Christmas Island, and in Australia, India, and Mongolia. She has recently been the EHESS/Iméra Chair at the Institute for Advanced Study at Aix Marseille Université and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Contemporary Buddhist Studies at the University of Copenhagen. Dr Abrahms-Kavunenko 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. She has held research positions at the Max Planck Institute for Anthropology, New York University Shanghai, the Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies in Erfurt, and the Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Edinburgh. She is the co-founder of Cenote (seh-notay) a travelling multi-disciplinary residency program committed to bridging the communicative gap that yawns ever wider between human cultures and the living systems and intelligences which support and co-constitute our existence.

Selected Publications

  • Abrahms-Kavunenko, Saskia. 2023. “Toward an Anthropology of Plastics’ Journal of Material Culture. 28, 1: 3-23.
  • Abrahms-Kavunenko, Saskia. 2022. ‘Mongolian Buddhism, Science and Healing: A Modernist Legacy’. Central Asian Survey. 41, 1: 41-57.
  • Abrahms-Kavunenko, Saskia. 2022. ‘Zombie Waste, Mummy Materiality: The Undead and the Fate of Mongolian Buddhist Waste.’ In Buddhism and Waste: The Excess, Discard, and Afterlife of Buddhist Consumption. Eds T. Brox and E. Williams-Oerberg. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing: 145-166.
  • Reichhardt, B. and S. Abrahms-Kavunenko. 2022. ‘Plastic Purity and Sacred Dairy: Microbes, Vitality and Standardisation in Mongolian Dairying.’ The Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies. 40, 1.
  • Abrahms-Kavunenko, Saskia. 2019. Enlightenment and the Gasping City: Mongolian Buddhism at a Time of Environmental Disarray. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

FRIAS Research Project

Always Already Entwined/ Impure: Buddhist Plastics and Praxis in Oceania

The objective of this project is to look at how Buddhists see themselves in relation to the technologies and economies that plastics have co-produced. By looking at how Buddhists reject, venerate, and are flooded with plastic items, Always Already Entwined/Impure will investigate how Buddhists view their separation and/or integration in a world awash with plastics. Rather than seeing the aversion, reverence, and incorporation of new plastic materials as incidental to Buddhist practice, the project will demonstrate how engaging changing relationships to these materials is a key part of understanding contemporary Buddhism. By engaging the deep ambivalences that many Australian Buddhists have towards plastics, this project will explore how the ubiquitous presence and deathless materiality of plastics both support and disrupt Buddhist engagements with contemporary forms of consumer capitalism.