Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies

First Advisor

Ruth Mas

Second Advisor

Sam Gill

Third Advisor

Rob Rupert


In this paper I consider work in the cognitive science of religion in light of anthropological work by Saba Mahmood and Charles Hirschkind on the formation of religious subjects in contemporary Egypt to highlight how Foucault's historical constitution of the subject involves the cultivation of perceptual, affective, and gestural aptitudes. In particular, I draw from Michel Foucault on subjectivity and Talal Asad on the function of disciplinary practices in the formation of religious subjects in order to investigate how subjects are historically constituted as such in ways that make possible certain forms of thought, experience, and interaction. Furthermore, I consider how this process of subject formation can be supplemented by research on the plasticity of the brain, as well as by the theories of enactive, embodied, and extended cognition. I do so in order to challenge the cognitive science of religion's claims about the naturalness of certain ways of thinking, perceiving, and acting. Taking Harvey Whitehouse's theory of "modes of religiosity" as a central example, I assert that the models of perception, memory, and cognition borrowed from cognitive sciences are, ultimately, elaborations of the same kind of natural human subject assumed by the kind of scholarship on the Islamic tradition critiqued by Mahmood and Hirschkind.