Synopses & Reviews
In early modern Europe, the circulation of visual and verbal transmissions of sati, or Hindu widowburning, not only informed responses to the ritualized violence of Hindu culture, but also intersected in fascinating ways with specifically European forms of ritualized violence and European constructions of gender ideology. European accounts of women being burned in India uncannily commented on the burnings of women as witches and criminal wives in Europe. When Europeans narrated their accounts of sati, perhaps the most striking illustration of Hindu patriarchal violence, they did not specifically connect the act of widowburning to a corresponding European signifier: the gruesome ceremonial burnings of women as witches. In examining early modern representations of sati, the book focuses specifically on those strategies that enabled European travelers to protect their own identity as uniquely civilized amidst spectacular displays of "Eastern barbarity."
makes an important contribution to the fields of early modern studies, post-colonial theory, and gender studies. Banerjee's approach is novel and innovative--one that reveals the Eurocentric limits of the existing early modern archive. Her analysis of the overlapping discourses of Hindu widow burning and European witchburning and ideologies of wifely conduct within European representations offers a fresh and original perspective on the ideological struggles of the period." --Jyotsna G. Singh, Michigan State University
"This lucid and engaging study of sixteenth and seventeenth-century European accounts of widow-burning in India begins by asking a provocative question: why did these writers fail to connect widowburning in India with witch-burning in Europe? Taking this silence as a starting point for her probing analysis, Pompa Banerjee traces the diverse cultural assumptions that made it possible for Europeans to read the spectacle of widowburning as the product of an alien, possibly devil-worshipping culture and as a compelling display of heroic self-sacrifice. Burning Women introduces the reader to a rich array of fascinating materials and expands our notions of the boundaries of early modern studies." --Deborah Willis, University of California, Riverside
Includes bibliographical references (p. -267) and index.
Pompa Banerjee explores early modern accounts and images of burning women bringing together travellers' accounts on sati in India with the burning of witches in EM Europe, a link that contemporary observers studiously repressed. Ultimately, she's interested in how these practices speak to issues of the punishment of women and ideological debates about the proper behaviour of wives and widows.
About the Author
teaches at the University of Colorado at Denver. She is especially interested in the cross-cultural potential of early modern European encounters with cultural difference in Asia, America, and Africa.
Table of Contents
Introduction * Renaissance Crossings; Widows, Witches, and Forms of Literary Haunting * Under Western Eyes: Sati and Witches in European Representations * Instructions for Christian women: The Sati and European Widows * Disorderly Wives, Poison, and the Iconography of Female Murderers * Civility and “dying” to Speak: the Sati, Fetish, and History