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About Prof Fabrizio Ferrari

I was educated in Indology and South Asian Languages and Literatures (Hindi, Urdu, Sanskrit and Persian) at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice (Italy). After studying independently Bengali and Sanskrit in Kolkata, Shantiniketan and Varanasi (India) for two years, I began postgraduate study at the Department of South Asian Languages and Cultures of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, University of London). I conducted extensive periods of fieldwork in West Bengal to document my research on the gājan festival and related Middle Bengali literature (Śūnyapurāṇ, Dharmapūjābidhān and Dharmamaṅgal’kābyas), and in 2005 I received my PhD.

I have taught South Asian Religions and Religious Studies as a Post-Doctoral Associate in the department of Religious Studies at SOAS and, in August 2007, I joined the University of Chester. After many years of ethnographic research, I am currently pursuing a more philological approach to my research and teaching. I continue investigating Indian medical knowledge, concepts of illness, healing rituals and narrative, and the representation and genealogy of protective deities in pre-modern scientific and ritual texts. Currently I am researching on materia medica and botanical knowledge in Middle Bengali literature.



  • Encountering Religions: Hinduism
  • The Study of Religion: an Introduction
  • Asian Philosophy: Knowledge, Liberation and the Self
  • Anthropology of Religions
  • Indian Mythology: Narrative, Ritual and Folklore


  • Advanced Theories and Methods In The Study Of Religions


Research interests:

  • History of religions
  • Comparative mythology
  • Sanskrit scientific literature (medicine, botany and agriculture)
  • History of Indian medicine
  • Health and ritual healing in Indian traditions
  • Bengali language
  • Middle Bengali literature

PhD (and D Prof) supervision:

I welcome enquiries for research at doctoral level in any of my research areas listed above, or from students wishing to explore other areas within the historical study of religions and Indian traditions in particular.

External Funding:

2016 Erasmus+ EU Funding (Teaching Mobility): hosted by the Department of Asian and North African Studies, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, to deliver a Bengali Language and Literature course.

2013 Visiting Scientist Scheme sponsored by the DiSSGea (Department of Historical and Geographic Sciences and the Ancient World), University of Padova, to support research on the animal body and sacrifice in the context of Indian healing rituals.

2009-2010 HEFCE Promising Researcher Fellowship (PRSF0109-FF) to facilitate an eight-month research leave to write the monograph Ernesto de Martino on Religion. The Crisis and the Presence.

2007 British Academy Overseas Conference Grant to present a paper at the ICAS5, International Convention of Asia Scholars (hosted by IIAS), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  

2001-2004: SOAS Student Research Fellowship, covering fees and maintenance to study for a Ph.D. in the Department of Languages and Cultures of South Asia at SOAS.

2001: AHRB (Art and Humanities Research Board) Fieldwork Research Grant, to cover preliminary fieldwork in West Bengal.

Elsewhere on the web

Chester Open Access Repository

Amazon Author Page

Seminars on Indian medicine

Published Work

Authored Books

2015. Religion and Medicine in Hindu Folklore. The Goddess Śītalā and Ritual Healing in North India. London: Bloomsbury.

2012. Ernesto de Martino on Religion. The Crisis and the Presence. London: Routledge.

2011. Guilty Males and Proud Females. Negotiating Genders in a Bengali Popular Festival. Calcutta and New York: Seagull. (ICAS 8; Colleagues’ Choice Award Winner, 2013.)

2001. Oltre il confine, dove la terra è rossa. Canti d’amore e d’estasi dei bāul del Bengala. Milano: Edizioni Ariele.

Edited Books

2016. (co-edited with T.W.P. Dähnhardt). Soulless Matter, Seats of Energy. Metals, Gems and Minerals in South Asian Traditions. London: Equinox.

2016. (co-edited with T.W.P. Dähnhardt). Roots of Wisdom, Branches of Devotion. Plant life in South Asian Traditions. Sheffield: Equinox.

2013. (co-edited with T.W.P. Dähnhardt). Charming Beauties and Frightful Beasts. Non-Human Animals in South Asian Myth, Ritual and Folklore. London: Equinox.

2011. Health and Religious Rituals in South Asia. Disease, Possession and Healing. London & New York: Routledge. (AAR Recommended Reading)

Chapters in books

2016. ‘Hinduism and Healing’. In: Malik, A. and W. Sweetman (eds), Hinduism in India: Modern and Contemporary Movements, pp. 194-219. New Delhi: Sage.

2016. ‘Agriculture, floriculture and botanical knowledge in a Middle Bengali text’. In: Ferrari, F.M. and T. Dähnhardt (eds) (2016). Roots of Wisdom, Branches of Devotion. Plant life in South Asian Traditions, pp. 241-269. London: Equinox.

2013. ‘The silent killer. The donkey as personification of illness in Northern Indian medical folklore’, in Ferrari, F.M. and T. Dähnhardt (eds), Charming Beauties and Frightful Beasts. Non-Human Animals in South Asian Myth, Ritual and Folklore, pp. 236-257. London: Equinox.

2013. ‘Alternative yoginīs with alternative powers. Singing the blues in the Cauṣaṭṭī Yoginī Devī Mandir of Vārāṇasī.’ In Keul, I. (ed.), Yoginī in South Asia. Alternative Approaches, pp. 148-162. London: Routledge.

2012. ‘Devotion and affliction in the time of cholera. Identity, resistance and colonialism in Bengal.’ In: Vargas-O’Bryen, I. and Xun, Z. (eds), Convergence and Collisions: Disease, Religion, and Healing in Asia, pp. 37-53. London: Routledge.

Journal articles

forthcoming (2016) (co-authored with M. Refolo). ‘The use of snuhī in Indian medical and ritual literature, with a note on Bengali Śaktism’, Traditional South Asian Medicine, 9.

2015. ‘“Illness is nothing but injustice.” The revolutionary element in Bengali folk healing,’ Journal of American Folklore, 128(507):46–64.

2014. ‘The myth of the treacherous yogin,’ Civiltà e Religioni, 1: 95-121.

2013. ‘The Animal Question in South Asia. A Post-Modern Pañcatantra.’ Guest editorial, with T.W.P. Dähnhardt. Religions of South Asia, 7(1-3), 5-11. Special issue: animals and ethics.

2013. ‘Beyond order and madness. Death and the hereafter in the ethnographies of Ernesto de Martino’, Paradigmi (New Series), 31(2): 51-66

2012. ‘Mystic Rites for Permanent Class Conflict: The Bāuls of Bengal, Revolutionary Ideology and Post-Capitalism,’ South Asia Research, 32(1): 28-38.

2010. ‘Altered states of mind or ordinary bodily hexis? Theological dominance, religious competitiveness and the revolutionary mystic in contemporary popular culture’, DISKUS, Journal of the British Association of the Study of Religion, vol. 11.

2007. ‘“Love me two times.” From smallpox to AIDS: contagion and possession in the cult of Śītalā’, Religions of South Asia, 1(1): 81-106.

2006. ‘“Baciami e uccidimi!” Śītalā e le madri ambigue del Bengala. Amore materno, ira divina ed epidemie’, Indoasiatica, 4: 183-224.

2005. ‘Surrendering to the earth. Male devotional practices in the Bengali Dharma cult’, Fieldwork in Religion, 1(2): 123-144.

2005. ‘Playing with corpses and worshipping skulls. Bodily modifications and gender transformations in rural West Bengal’, Contemporary South Asia, 14(4): 447-463.

2005 (co-authored with M. Refolo). ‘2005. Mito e contagio. Per un’analisi comparativa dei Śītalāmaṅgalkāvya e de Il Cromosoma Calcutta, Annali di Ca’Foscari, 44(3): 139-163.

2004. ‘The jewel of the secret path or the neglected teacher? Some remarks on guruvāda among the Bāuls of Bengal’, Indoasiatica, 2: 247-283.

2004. ‘Śrī Dharmeśvara of Varanasi and the cult of Dharma Ṭhākur of Bengal. Some analogies and discrepancies’, South Asia Research, 24(2), 149-69.

2004. ‘Problematiche di interpretazione storica e teologica dello Sunya Purana. Note su Nirañjaner Uṣmā per un’analisi del sincretismo hindu-islamico del Bengala’, Annali di Ca’Foscari, 43(3), 31-53.

2001. ‘L’influsso di Jayadeva sulla letteratura Bengali dal XII al XVIII secolo’, Annali di Ca’Foscari, 40(3), 211-233.







Laurea Magistralis, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, 2000

Ph.D., School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 2005

PG Certificate in Higher Education, University of Chester, 2008

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy