John Zavos

John Zavos


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Personal profile


I worked at the University of Manchester from 2000 to 2018. As of September 2018, I am an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Religions and Theology. 

I was awarded my PhD in the field of religion and politics by the University of Bristol in 1998. I also have an M.Phil in Modern Indian History from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

I am a historian by training, and have worked extensively on the development of the Hindu nationalist movement. More recently my work has focused on Hindus and other South Asian religious communities and organisations in diaspora contexts.  My published work includes Religious Traditions in Modern South Asia (London: Routledge, 2011, co-authored with Jacqueline Suthren Hirst) and The Emergence of Hindu Nationalism in India (Oxford University Press, 2000).  I was the lead editor of Public Hinduisms (Sage, 2012, with co-editors Pralay Kanungo, Deepa Reddy, Maya Warrier and Raymond Wiliams) and have also edited two volumes in collaboration with other colleagues: Decentring the Indian Nation? (London: Frank Cass, 2003), with Andrew Wyatt, and Politics of Cultural Mobilisation in India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2004) with Andrew Wyatt and Vernon Hewitt. I have also worked on the World Parliament of Religions and the representation of religious identities in the contemporary world.

I have been the editor of the journal Contemporary South Asia since January 2008.

Research interests

Specific research interests:

I am interested in the relationship between religion, identity and politics in South Asia, and in the South Asian diaspora, and have published books and articles in this area since 2000.


  • With my colleague at Manchester, Dr Jacqueline Suthren Hirst, I am author of Religious Traditions in Modern South Asia (London: Routledge, 2011).  This book offers an exciting fresh approach to the study of religions in modern South Asia.
  • I am also lead editor of Public Hinduisms (New Delhi: Sage, 2012), a major collection of research articles exploring the public representation of Hinduism in India and the diaspora.  This project is a research collaboration with Pralay Kanungo, Deepa S. Reddy, Maya Warrier and Raymond B. Williams.

Much of my current research focuses on religion in urban environments, and in particular the involvement of South Asian communities in social action initiatives such as food banks and food kitchens.  This builds on my continuing interest in the development of Hindu identity in the UK and Europe, and the relationship between religion and diaspora consciousness. Recent publications in this area are:

I have recently acted as Co-Investigator for the AHRC-funded project Conversion, Translation and the Language of Autobiography, exploring conversion experiences and the concept of religion in colonial India. 

I have been a member of the steering group of the Mediating Religion Network, a project seed-funded by the Centre for Research in Socio-Cultural Change.

I was the principal investigator on the AHRC-funded network project, 'The Public Representation of a Religion called Hinduism: postcolonial patterns in India, Britain and the US'. This project ran from June 2008 to June 2010.

I was a member of the Steering Group of the network project, Writing British Asian Cities (WBAC), a project funded by the AHRC Strategic Initiative 'Diasporas, Migration and Identities'.

I was project partner for the German Research Council-funded project, 'Citizenship as conceptual flow: Asia in comparative perspective', co-ordinated by Professor Subrata Mitra at the South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg


Supervision areas:

I am not currently accepting any new research students for supervision.  

In the past, I have successfully supervised the following research students:

  • Nida Kirmani, Questioning 'the Muslim Woman': the narration of multiple identities in Zakir Nagar
  • Sabine Scholtz, The Digambara Jainas of South Maharashtra and North Karnataka since the late 19th Century: toward the establishment of a collective religious identity and a Digambara Jaina community
  • Ketan Alder, Hindu Nationalist welfare networks and the creation of a Hindu nation in early 21st century Jharkhand

I am currently supervising the following projects:

  • Stephanie Dermott, South Asian diasporas and faith-based social action in Greater Manchester
  • George Rawlinson, South Asian Islamic movements of revival and reform and the formation of British Muslim identity

Current teaching:

I am not currently teaching at the University of Manchester.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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