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Department of Religions and Philosophies

Dr Cosimo Zene

BA, MA, PhD (London)


Cosimo Zene
Department of Religions and Philosophies

Reader in the Study of Religions

SOAS South Asia Institute

Academic Staff, SOAS South Asia Institute

London Middle East Institute (LMEI)


SOAS Food Studies Centre

Member, SOAS Food Studies Centre

Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies


Dr Cosimo Zene
Email address:
020 7898 4783
SOAS, University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:


Dr Cosimo Zene - Self-Consciousness of the Dalits as ‘Subalterns’: Reflections on Gramsci in South Asia

Social Anthropology, Philosophy, Theology


Programmes Convened
Courses Taught
PhD Students supervised
  • Husam Almallak, Post-Secular Islamic Religiosity: A Nietzschean Reading of Ibn ‘Arabi’s Hermeneutics of Transvaluation
  • Jennifer Griggs, Syrian Orthodox Barhebraeus in Dialogue with Islam: Understanding the ‘Love of God’ and the Hermeneutics of Mysticism.
  • S. Jonathon O'Donnell, Owning the Future: Sovereignty and Demonology in an Age of Terror
  • Shi Longdu, Buddhism and the State in Medieval China: A Case Study of Three Persecutions of Buddhism in Chinese History, 446-845
  • Terumi Toyama, The Replication of Sacred Spaces in Edo


My research to date revolves around three main areas of enquiry:

1) Dalits and Religion:

Following an initial historical-anthropological research among a group of Dalits in Bengal and Bangladesh and in particular their conversion to Christianity (Zene 2002, The Rishi of Bangladesh, Routledge), I have continued researching upon the dialogical component of the religious experience  of these Dalits and the struggle to affirm their humanity by way of the religious ‘metaphor’ (Zene 2004, Travesia en el desierto; Zene 2007, Myth, identity and belonging).

Though not prominent at the early stages of this research, Gramsci’s thought has become increasingly relevant to highlight the human, social and religious experience of these Dalits, to the point of establishing a meaningful association with the thought of the Dalit leader, B. R. Ambedkar (Zene 2013, ed. The Political Philosophies of Antonio Gramsci and B. R. Ambedkar). This latest work is the result of intense collaboration between a group of Gramscian scholars and specialists in the fields of Ambedkarite and Dalit studies. This fruitful line of inquiry inspires future research into more specific aspects of the life of Dalits and Subalterns, such as their educational and religious experiences, also in conjunction with Latin American thinkers explicitly involved with the subalterns, such as Paulo Freire and José Carlos Mariátegui. A special issue journal is planned for 2017 on ‘Gramsci and Religion’.

2) Itineraries of the Gift:

The return to my native island of Sardinia was motivated by a preliminary research in 1995 on gift-giving, in the village of Nule, and subsequent extended field trips. Research on gift-giving (Zene 2007, ‘Dono e vendetta nella Sardegna Centrale’; Zene 2007, ‘S’Imbiatu: gift and community’), has expanded into other related areas of village life (Zene 2009, Dialoghi Nulesi), with more work resulting in an ethnographic film (Zene and Figus 2014, S’Impinnu - The Vow) and a monograph in the making (Zene 2016/17, Itineraries of the Gift).

In this case, also, there is a substantial ‘dialogical dimension’ underlining the research into gift-giving, both as an experiential phenomenon and as a theoretical effort. Developing the Maussian aspect of gift-giving as a “total social fact”, this research aims to unfold the Gift from a mere  anthropological domain to favour an interdisciplinary perspective (philosophy, theology, archaeology etc.). The trope of ‘dialogue’ can be also relevant in highlighting the interdisciplinary dimension of the Study of Religions, including the dialogue with colleagues working in the same department (Zene, ed. 2013, Religion and Dialogue. Special issue of Culture and Dialogue).

3) World Philosophies:

With the dimension of dialogue within my research having extended to include a wider scenario, the aim of this effort is directed towards envisaging a possible opening at the level of ‘world philosophies’ or ‘systems of thought’, as part of human experience and encounter, thus establishing a connection between different epistemologies, ethics and metaphysics, as well as a diverse way of interpreting history and reality.  With the launch in 2016-17 of the new BA World Philosophies, this is becoming a shared endeavour with both colleagues and students. Future research in this direction is planned to include the publication of a series on ‘World Philosophies’, in collaboration with specialists in this field, following a recent workshop (June 2015) towards the preparation of the Inaugural Volume of the series.


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Available for
  • Press
  • Briefings
  • Special Study Programmes
  • Short Term Consultancy
Regional Expertise
  • South Asia
Country Expertise
  • Bangladesh
  • India
  • Bengali
  • Greek
  • Italian
  • Latin Lingala
  • Spanish


Authored Books

Zene, Cosimo (2009) Dialoghi Nulesi - Storia, Memoria, identita' di Nule (Sardegna) nell'antropologia di Andreas F. W. Bentzon. Nuoro, Italy: Edizioni ISRE (Istituto Superiore Regionale Etnografico).

Zene, Cosimo (2002) The Rishi of Bangladesh. A History of Christian Dialogues. London: Routledge Curzon.

Edited Books or Journal Volumes

Zene, Cosimo, ed. (2013) The Political Philosophies of Antonio Gramsci and B.R. Ambedkar. Itineraries of Subalterns and Dalits. London; New York: Routledge . (Routledge Advances in South Asian Studies )

Zene, Cosimo, ed. (2013) Religion and Dialogue. Special issue of Culture and Dialogue, Vol.3, No. 1. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. (Culture and Dialogue)

Book Chapters

Zene, Cosimo (2015) 'Angioni, Gramsci e Pigliaru: il folclore, la Sardegna e l'ospite-straniero.' In: Bachis, Francesco and Pusceddu, Antonio Maria, (eds.), Cose da prendere sul serio. Le antropologie di Giulio Angioni. Nuoro, Sardinia, Italy. : Il Maestrale, pp. 197-205. (In Press)

Zene, Cosimo (2014) 'Gramsci, los subalternos y los Subaltern Studies en la panoramica poscolonial (Autoconciencia de los dalits como "subalternos").' In: Pala, Giaime and Firenze, Antonino and Garcia, Jordi Mir, (eds.), Gramsci y la sociedad intercultural. Barcelona (Spain): Montesinos, pp. 75-98. (Ensayo)

Zene, Cosimo (2013) 'Subalterns and Dalits in Gramsci and Ambedkar: prologue to a posthumous dialogue.' In: The Political Philosophies of Antonio Gramsci and B.R. Ambedkar. Itineraries of Subalterns and Dalits. London and New York: Routledge , pp. 1-32. (Routledge Advances in South Asian Studies )

Zene, Cosimo (2013) 'Conclusion: which itineraries for Dalits, subalterns and intellectuals?' In: The Political Philosophies of Antonio Gramsci and B.R. Ambedkar. Itineraries of Subalterns and Dalits. London; New York: Routledge , 209 -215. (Routledge Advances in South Asian Studies)

Zene, Cosimo (2011) 'Self-Consciousness of the Dalits as 'Subalterns': Reflections on Gramsci in South Asia.' In: Green , Marcus, E , (ed.), Rethinking Gramsci. London and New York: Routledge , pp. 90-104. (Routledge innovations in political theory )

Zene, Cosimo (2010) 'L'autocoscienza dei Dalits-Intoccabili come Subalterni. Riflessioni su Gramsci nel Sud dell'Asia.' In: Baldussi, Annamaria and Manduchi, Patrizia, (eds.), Gramsci in Asia e in Africa. Cagliari, Italy: Aipsa Edizioni, pp. 228-255.

Zene, Cosimo (2007) 'Le tessitrici di Nule: impresa economica, produzione artistica e tessuto sociale. [Handloom Weavers of Nule - ‘Social Fabric’ between Art Production and Economic Enterprise].' In: Caoci, A. and Lai, F., (eds.), Gli "oggetti culturali". L'artigianato tra estetica, antropologia e sviluppo locale. FrancoAngeli, pp. 70-92.

Zene, Cosimo (2006) 'Nule: il dono della tessitura.' In: Tessuti: tradizione e innovazione della tessitura in Sardegna. Nuoro, Italy: Ilisso, pp. 245-260. (Collana di etnografia e cultura materiale)

Zene, Cosimo (2004) 'Travesia en el desierto. Las experiencias de la humanidad en el dialogo con Dios. [Journey into the Desert: The Experience of Humanity in Dialogue with God].' In: Salas Quiltanal, H. and Pérez-Taylor, R., (eds.), Desiertos y fronteras. El norte de México y otros contextos culturales. V Colloquio Paul Kirchhoff. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas, Plaza y Valdés Editores, pp. 45-67.

Zene, Cosimo (2003) 'Religion, Dialogue and Fear of the Other.' In: Raveri, Massimo, (ed.), Le Religion e la Pace. Venezia, Italy: Marsilio, pp. 303-321.

Zene, Cosimo (2002) 'Banaras: The Eternal Recurrence of a Myth.' In: Fernandez, J, (ed.), En el Camino: Cultura y Patrimonio. Univeridade da Coruna (Spain), pp. 83-104.

Zene, Cosimo (2001) 'The Ethics of Cross-Cultural Dialogue.' In: Inaga, S. and Richard, K. L., (eds.), Crossing Cultural Borders: toward an ethics of international communication. Beyond reciprocal anthropology. Kyoto: International Research Center for Japanese Studies, pp. 89-124. (International Symposium; 14)

Zene, Cosimo (2000) 'We too are Humans (Amrao je manus!): The Rishis'' struggle for human identity.' In: SOAS Working Papers in the Study of Religions. SOAS, pp. 69-98.


Cosimo, Zene (2015) 'World Philosophies in Dialogue: A Shared Wisdom?' Confluence: Online Journal of World Philosophies , 2 . pp. 11-32.

Zene, Cosimo (2015) 'I Subalterni nel mondo: tipologie e nesso con le diverse forme dell'esperienza religiosa.' International Gramsci Journal , 1 (4/6). pp. 66-82.

Zene, Cosimo (2013) 'The Challenge of Critical Dialogue and the Study of Religions.' Culture and Dialogue, 3 (1). pp. 153-180.

Zene, Cosimo (2013) 'Riflettendo su Antonio Pigliaru: tra ordinamenti e paradigmi – dono e/o vendetta?' Lares, Rivista quadrimestrale di Demoetnoantropologia, LXXIX (1). pp. 35-44.

Zene, Cosimo (2012) 'Gramsci ve madunlarim dini: güney asya’daki dalitler (dokunulmazlar) hakkinda bir örnek çalişma.' felsefelogos, 44 (1). pp. 39-74.

Zene, Cosimo (2011) 'Self-Consciousness of the Dalits as 'Subalterns': Reflections on Gramsci in South Asia.' Rethinking Marxism. A Journal of Economics, Culture & Society., 23 (1). pp. 83-99.

Zene, Cosimo (2011) 'Il Gramsci dialogico-dialettico di Giorgio Baratta. Dall’ambito regionale-nazionale, al percorso transnazionale della filosofia della praxis.' LARES – Quadrimestrale di Studi Demoetnoantropologici, LXXVII (3). pp. 471-485.

Zene, Cosimo (2008) 'Intervento.' Lares, Rivista quadrimestrale di Demoetnoantropologia, LXXIV (2). pp. 276-286.

Zene, Cosimo (2007) 'S'Imbiatu. Gift and Community in Central Sardinia.' Culture and Religion, 8 (3). pp. 291-312.

Zene, Cosimo (2007) 'Don et vendetta en Sardaigne.' La Revue du MAUSS semestrielle (30). pp. 367-392.

Zene, Cosimo (2007) 'Myth, identity and belonging: the Rishi of Bengal/Bangladesh.' Religion, 37 (4). pp. 257-281.

Mandair, Arvind-pal and Zene, Cosimo (2006) 'Refusals: Opening the Difference in Dialogue.' Social Identities, 12 (1). pp. 1-3.

Zene, Cosimo (2005) 'Dono e vendetta nella Sardegna centrale. [Gift and Vendetta in Central Sardinia].' Lares, 71 (3). pp. 683-720.

Mandair, Arvind-pal and Zene, Cosimo (2005) 'Dialogue and the Inscription of the “West”.' Social Identities, 11 (3). pp. 171-175.

Zene, Cosimo (1999) 'Sardegna e Lingua Sarda negli scritti di Guiseppe Senes (1851-1920).' Quarderni Bolotanesi, 25 . pp. 207-228.

Zene, Cosimo (1993) 'The Authority of the Face: Missionary Representations in South-West Bangladesh.' History and Anthropology, 6 (2-3). pp. 199-234.


Ignazio, Figus and Cosimo, Zene (2014) 'S'Impinnu (The Vow).' In: Ethnographic Film - S'Impinnu (The Vow). Nuoro, Sardinia, ITALY: Istituto Superiore Regionale Etnografico (ISRE).

Zene, Cosimo (2008) '“Non solo Launeddas” e “Il Fondo Bentzon dell’ISRE”.' Istituto Superiore Etnografico della Sardegna . Isre Sardegna.

This list was generated on Fri Oct 9 00:33:11 2015 BST.