April 25, 2023 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Online and in the Healey Room, Westminster College, Cambridge

Dr Mari van Emmerik

On 25th April at 1pm Dr Mari van Emmerik will give a seminar entitled ‘The Anatomy of Unbelief: Rethinking the Scientific Approaches to Nonreligion’.

A light sandwich lunch will be provided from 12:30pm in the Healey Room, Westminster College, Cambridge.


One of the major recent moves in the scholarship on nonreligion and secularism has been marked by turning away from the neat binaries and the negative identities signalled by atheism and agnosticism (e.g., Taves, Asprem and Ihm 2018). However, these binaries are deeply ingrained in the Western landscape of ideas about the nature of mind/ body relationship and the nature of belief/ unbelief and are saturated by a level of “somatophobia” berated by Manuel Vásquez (2011: 89).

In this talk, I will revisit Donna Haraway’s concept of “situated knowledges” and her critique of the disembodied scientific objectivity, arguing for the embodied and encultured nature of the “partial perspective”, which considers both the agency of the theorist producing the knowledge and the historical placement of the object of study (Haraway 1988).  I will apply this critique to the scientific approach to the study of nonreligion called cognitive science of religion (CSR) as I investigate the “C” (cognition) and the “R” (religion and nonreligion) models employed by this field. At the end of the talk, I will propose a biocultural approach, that replaces the computational paradigm in CSR with 4E cognition paradigm, which views the mind as physically embodied, culturally embedded, socially extended and enactive; and the belief/ unbelief binary with material nonreligion and secularisms.