Religion MA: An interview with Dr. Karen O’Brien-Kop

Below is an interview between a Religion MA student and Dr. Karen O’Brien-Kop, a lecturer at King’s who specializes in South Asian-oriented religious studies. We discuss Dr. O’Brien-Kop’s research interests, experience in supervising research projects and students, and what students can expect from a one-year program if they decide to work on South Asian traditions in their MA Religion program at King’s.

Interviewer: Wei Luo

Interviewee: Dr. Karen O’Brien-Kop

The MA Religion programme draws students from around the world and is taught by internationally renowned academics in their field. Depending on the teaching options available during a particular academic year, the degree allows you to design your course of study based on your interests and specialization in specific areas of the study of religion, such as Biblical Studies, Systematic Theology, and Social Sciences, among others. Our South Asian-oriented religious studies are well known in academic circles worldwide, despite having a relatively small number of students. This interview is dedicated to interviewing our faculty scholars in this area and discussing the training they can offer potential students interested in South Asian-oriented religious studies. Dr. O’Brien-Kop is an exceptional lecturer at King’s and her research mainly focuses on South Asian mind-body philosophy found in Sanskrit texts, with a particular emphasis on examining the links between Hinduism and Buddhism.

Interviewer: Hi, Dr. O’Brien-Kop. It is our pleasure to have you. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your particular research interests?

Dr. O’Brien-Kop: I am interested in Asian religions and philosophies. Specifically, I focus on Hinduism and Buddhism, especially in South Asia. And I’m also interested in the interactions between Hindu and Buddhist thought in history and how that has shaped the transmission of both traditions. I like to work with Sanskrit texts on mind-body, meditation and ascetic practice.

Interviewer: Besides history, do you work on any contemporary studies?

Dr. O’Brien-Kop: I also research modern and contemporary Asian religions and philosophies including issues like colonialism and race.

Interviewer: So, how do you identify yourself as a researcher? What languages do you work with the most?

Dr. O’Brien-Kop: I’m a religious studies scholar who works on texts in Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit.

Interviewer: That’s awesome! Can you also tell me a little bit about the experience you had in supervising research projects or students? What can students expect from a one-year program if they decide to work on South Asian traditions in their MA Religion program?

Dr. O’Brien-Kop: I have extensive experience in supervision at the MA level across a range of topics including South Asian religion, both Buddhist and Hindu traditions, and specifically in mind-body philosophies. I’ve also supervised projects on transnational religion, the history of colonialism and the critical theory of religion, including topics like race and gender. If you have me as a supervisor, I’m quite hands-on. I can supervise engagement with Sanskrit primary sources. I can also offer supervision in qualitative research, including fieldwork that has ethnographic components. I’m happy to supervise students from other departments or to co-supervise.


Some Recent Works of Dr. O’Brien-Kop:

  • O’Brien-Kop, K. (forthcoming 2022) ‘Defining Body and Mind: Yoga, Asceticism and Meditation’ in Sathaye, Adheesh (Ed.) A Cultural History of Hinduism in the Classical Age 200BCE-800CE. Bloomsbury Academic: London.
  • O’Brien-Kop, K. (2022) ‘Meditation, Idealism and Materiality: Vivid Visualization in the Buddhist “Qizil Yoga Manual” and the Context of Caves’ in Journal of Indian Philosophy. 50.2. Open Access.
  • O’Brien-Kop, K. (2021) Rethinking ‘Classical Yoga’ and Buddhism: Meditation, Metaphors and Materiality. Bloomsbury Advances in Religious Studies. Bloomsbury Academic: London.
  • Newcombe, S. and O’Brien-Kop, K. (Eds.) (2020) Routledge Handbook of Yoga and Meditation Studies. Routledge: London and New York.

Public Engagement of Dr. O’Brien-Kop:

She is the co-convenor the Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions (,  a co-chair of the Indian and Chinese Religions Compared Unit at the American Academy of Religion ( and a co-editor at the academic journal Religions of South Asia (

Contact Information:

For more information on our Religion MA, visit our course page:

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