Susanne Ryuyin Kerekes

Areas of Expertise

Buddhism, Buddhist art and architecture, contemporary Thai/SEA religious practice, including ritual and amulets, 19th century Thai manuscripts, Buddhist economics, and Material Religion.

My first book project, Material Buddhists, celebrates the rich and eclectic matter of contemporary Thai religious culture. It extends the human-nonhuman foci of new materialist theories to considerations of the supernatural. In other words, I argue that attending seriously to the material world (e.g., ritual objects and other Buddhist stuff) entails attending seriously also to spirits and special things, what the Thai call, “saksit.” Fashioning the material culture and social history of Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn) as primary case study, Material Buddhists explores the ever-changing constellations of society, stuff, special things, and spirits that invisibly shape the visible, affective, tangible and material world of Buddhist Thailand. It is the first historically informed, archival and ethnographic study on any royal monastery of Thailand.

In addition to my own research, I am also working with Dr. Jessica Zu at USC Dornsife on a much broader collaborative project—“Buddhism of the 99%.” Buddhism of the 99% is motived by three themes: 1) the overlooked figures of Buddhist revolutionaries, Buddhist Marxists, Buddhist socialists, and the Civil Rights activists who contributed the rise of engaged Buddhism in the 1960s; 2) the much more popular practices of “disengaged” Buddhism that nonetheless brought relief and inner peace to many disadvantaged and oppressed peoples; 3) the porous boundary between the seemingly “engaged” and “disengaged” Buddhist practices that calls for more effective analytic lenses to understand the appeal of Buddhism in the era of globalized inequality.

Scholarship/Creative Work

“Siamese Manuscript Collections in the United States,” co-authored with Justin McDaniel, in Manuscript Studies (2.1, Fall 2017, special issue on Thai manuscripts): 202-237.

Awards, Fellowships & Grants

American Council of Learned Societies / Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhist Studies, Dissertation Fellowship (2017-2018)

Asian Cultural Council, Individual Research Grant, Thailand (2017)

Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies, Graduate Student Research Fellowship (2015-2016)

University of Pennsylvania, School of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching by Graduate Students (2015)

Khyentse Foundation, Award for Excellence in Buddhist Studies (2014)

Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute, Usha Maha Jani Award for Excellence in Language Study (2013)

University of Pennsylvania, Benjamin Franklin Fellowship (2012-2017)

The Royal Bangkok Sports Club, Post-graduate Scholarship (2010-2012)

Professional Affiliations

Steering Committee Member, Religion in Southeast Asia Unit, American Academy of Religion (2019-2022)