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Godless people and dead bodies: Materiality and the morality of atheist materialism

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    Rights statement: This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedited version of an article published in Social Analysis. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Copeman, J., & Quack, J. (2015). Godless People and Dead Bodies, Social Analysis, 59(2), 40-61 from https://www.berghahnjournals.com/view/journals/social-analysis/59/2/sa590203.xml is available online at: https://doi.org/10.3167/sa.2015.590203

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40–61
Number of pages22
JournalSocial Analysis: The International Journal of Social and Cultural Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


Atheists are not the only people who donate their bodies, yet the practice is strikingly prevalent in a variety of atheist circles. We concentrate here on the Indian case, exploring body donation as a key instance of the material culture of atheism. Recent efforts to reinvigorate study of the material culture of religion are to be welcomed, but they should be extended to non-religion in order to address the irony that sees scholars representing materialism as an abstract doctrine and, hence, as immaterial. Body donation holds value for Indian atheists as a bridge between 'positive' and 'negative' modes of atheist thought and action. It also provides a ready-made solution for atheist activists keen to circumvent the cadaver-centered death rituals they find so redundant.

    Research areas

  • atheism, body donation, disbelief, India, material culture, moral materialism, non-religion

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