Burning Women pp 175-210 | Cite as

Civility and “Dying” to Speak

Sati, the Fetish, and History
  • Pompa Banerjee
Part of the Early Modern Cultural Studies book series (EMCSS)


The bizarre intersections of Hindu widows and European husband-murderers highlighted at the end of the last chapter signal that the crossings between the sati and European wives, widows, and witches might manifest themselves in unexpected ways. One final overlap among the widely divergent cultural discourses that constructed the sati in India and the chaste women and unruly wives in Europe occurs at the site of speech and writing. The acts of speaking and writing crucially informed the gendered construction of women in Europe and India and I suggest that this site might furnish the most far-reaching of all the mergings discussed in this book. European representations of the sati’s silences ironically spoke to the European ideology of the chaste, silent, and obedient wife. The silent sati who did not inscribe her own history and went smiling to her funeral pyre in obedient silence resonated with European ideas of the “good wife” who did not speak. By contrast, European profiles of Hindu widows who spoke eagerly in her final moments to affirm and uphold the violent patriarchal ideology that brought her to the pyre intersected with the last dying speeches of European female husband-murderers who were encouraged to speak in public in order to repent and proselytize in the final moments before their burning.


Final Moment Good Wife European Traveler European Representation Travel Writer 
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© Pompa Banerjee 2003

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  • Pompa Banerjee

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