Research Projects

Residue: Mongolian Buddhist Waste and the Recalcitrant Materiality of Blessings, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the Center for Contemporary Buddhist Studies, Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, the University of Copenhagen, 2020-present.

Although Buddhism is often considered to be a religion defined by its explicit counsel against excessive desire and consumption, this research will highlight the ways that Buddhist ritual practices generate consumption, excess, and waste. This project will follow Buddhist ritual items from their point of purchase to their ‘productive afterlives’ as discarded things. Rather than seeing the generation of waste as incidental to Buddhist practice, it will demonstrate how Buddhist consumption and waste-making practices are key to understanding contemporary Buddhism. By exploring the seeming non-sequitur of ‘Buddhist waste’, it will provide new insights into the cultural aspects of the generation and conception of waste.

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

My writing project for the IASH-SSPS asked how attempts to alter one’s economic fortunes through religious rituals influence broader economic behaviours and attitudes in Ulaanbaatar. As many urban Mongolians try to mitigate economic problems through ritual practices, this project traced the relationship between religious practices and economic inequalities. It looked at how, in the context of an unstable economy, objects believed to influence a household’s wealth can become ambiguous and immaterial cosmological causalities can become immanent.

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

The project followed the social life of things and processes that are thought to influence economic inequality, and how these things or causalities, whether initially material or immaterial, instantiate themselves in the lives of Ulaanbaatar’s residents.

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

This project looked at the materiality of air pollution in relation to postsocialist religious experiences, as it is generative of uncertainties and certainties, knowledge and ignorance, security and anxiety, clarity and blur. The project also explored money in its material instantiations and its divergent interpretations. This project discoursed with more general theoretical debates about global economic, environmental and political changes within anthropology, sociology and beyond, adding to the emerging field of anthropologists and sociologists who are directly engaging with global capitalism as an evolving set of practices, values and structures.

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.

This project investigated the formation of new Buddhist economies following the end of the socialist period. This research explored how changing attitudes to money impact donations to Buddhist institutions, and how these institutions address growing concerns about inequality.
Based on previous research about the spiritual value of money in Mongolia, the project explored the strategies that Mongolians use to navigate mundane and supra-mundane religious economies. It looked at how ritual activities incorporate or sideline financial imperatives and money. And, how money itself is perceived as living or inert, generative or depletive, polluted, corrupted, blessed or neutral.

Improvising Tradition: Lay Buddhist Experiences in Cosmopolitan Ulaanbaatar, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, The University of Western Australia 2007-2012

Judgements, Goose Strings and Visceral Stirrings: Combining Objects and Feelings in Theories of Emotions, History and Philosophy of Science, The University of Melbourne 2005

Depression and the Narratives of Suffering: A Look At Pathways of Dysphoria, Department of Anthropology, The University of Western Australia 2002