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Pious Flames: European Encounters with Sati 1500-1830

Andrea Major (Author)
Synopsis Sati, the burning of a Hindu widow on her husband’s funeral pyre, has fascinated Europeans for centuries. For both early modern and eighteenth-century observers, there was as much to admire as to condemn in the rite. Far from being the practice that defined Hindu cultural ‘otherness’, for many, sati resonated strongly with their own patriarchal preconceptions and concerns. Exploring the interconnections between the iconic image and the observers’ own preconceptions, Pious Flames traces the changing nature of western responses to sati over three and a half centuries. It situates such responses in the context of the ongoing domestic debates about women, religion, suicide, insanity, and the treatment of the human body. Major argues that European outrage against sati was not the normative response of a ‘civilized West’ to a ‘Barbaric oriental custom’, but rooted in a historically specific set of social and cultural ideas. She argues that colonial knowledge was based as much on the recognition of similarity between the two cultures as on the assertion of a diametric opposition. This book will be an important reading for historians, sociologists, and anthropologists working on gender, socio-religious reforms, popular culture, and literature as well as those interested in colonial South Asia and European history.
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About the author

Andrea Major

Andrea Major is ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Edinburgh.

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Bibliographic information

Title Pious Flames: European Encounters with Sati 1500-1830
Author Andrea Major
Format Hardcover
Date published: 01.01.2006
Edition 1st ed.
Language: English
isbn 0195678184
length x+258p., Figures; Notes; Bibliography; Index; 23cm.
Subjects History