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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 submitted for publication in Social Analysis. The definitive publisher-authenticated version will be available online. © Copeman, J., & Quack, J. (2014). 'Godless people' and dead bodies: materiality and the morality of atheist materialism, Social Analysis.

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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
JournalSocial Analysis
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


Professed atheists are by no means the only people who donate their bodies, yet
the practice is strikingly prevalent in a variety of atheist circles across time and
geographical region. We concentrate here on the Indian case, exploring body
donation as a key instance of the material culture of atheism. Recent moves to
reinvigorate study of the material culture of religion are to be welcomed, but
should be extended to irreligion as a means of addressing the longstanding irony
that sees scholars represent materialism as an abstract doctrine and, hence, as
immaterial. Body donation – as a personal act – might be considered an intimate
objectification of materialism that, dialectically, both evidences and forms it.
Moreover, body donation has come to form a key indicator of the morality of
materialism, and as such has come to act as a key component of atheist
impression management, in India and elsewhere.

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