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Lata Mani Contentious Traditions

Lata Mani Contentious Traditions

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Published by prarochana
Contentious Traditions: The Debate on Sati in Colonial India Author(s): Lata Mani Reviewed work(s): Source: Cultural Critique, No. 7, The Nature and Context of Minority Discourse II (Autumn, 1987), pp. 119-156 Published by: University of Minnesota Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1354153 . Accessed: 12/12/2011 04:09
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is
Contentious Traditions: The Debate on Sati in Colonial India Author(s): Lata Mani Reviewed work(s): Source: Cultural Critique, No. 7, The Nature and Context of Minority Discourse II (Autumn, 1987), pp. 119-156 Published by: University of Minnesota Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1354153 . Accessed: 12/12/2011 04:09
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is

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Published by: prarochana on Dec 12, 2011
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Contentious Traditions: The Debate on Sati in Colonial IndiaAuthor(s): Lata ManiReviewed work(s):Source:
Cultural Critique,
No. 7, The Nature and Context of Minority Discourse II (Autumn,1987), pp. 119-156Published by:
Stable URL:
Accessed: 12/12/2011 04:09
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at
.
http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspJSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.
University of Minnesota Press
is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to
CulturalCritique.
http://www.jstor.org
 
ContentiousTraditions:TheDebateonSATI inColonialIndiaLataMani
he abolitionofsatibythe Britishin1829hasbecomeafoundingmomentinthehistoryofwomeninmoderIndia.' Thelegisla-tiveprohibitionofsatiwas the culminationof a debateduringwhich8,134instancesofsatihad been recordedmainly, thoughnot ex-clusively, among uppercasteHindus,withahighconcentration-63percent-inthe areaaroundCalcuttaCity.2Thedebate,initiatedpri-marily bycolonialofficials,isregardedassignifyingthe concernforthestatus of women thatemergesinthenineteenthcentury.Colonialrule,withits moralcivilizingclaims,issaid to haveprovidedthe contextsfor athoroughgoingre-evaluation of Indian "tradition"alonglines
1. Thispaperwasorginallywrittenforaforthcomingvolumeon women andcultureinmodemIndia,tobe editedbyKum KumSangariand SudeshVaid(NewDelhi:Kali).Fortheirperceptivesuggestionsand carefulreadingof earlier versionsof thispa-per,I would like tothankJamesClifford,RuthFrankenberg,InderpalGrewal,DonnaHaraway,CarenKaplan,KatieKing,ThomasMetcalf,CarlaPetievich,Kum KumSangariand SudeshVaid.2. ThesefiguresaredrawnfromtheParliamentaryapersnHindooWidowshereafterPP).The8,134satiswererecorded between 1815and 1828.Theproportionofburn-ingsin theCalcuttaregionis anaveragefor thisperiod.Breakdownof satisbycastewastabulatedin thePPfor 1823: brahmin234;kayasth25;vaisya14;sudra292(PP,1825).Sati wasproportionatelyhigher amongbrahmins.
?
byCulturalCritique.882-4371(Fall1987).Allrightsreserved.
119
 
120 Lata Mani
more consonant withthe"modern"economyandsocietybelievedtohave been theconsequenceofIndia'sincorporationintothecapitalistworldsystem.3Inotherwords,even the mostanti-imperialistamongstushas felt forced toacknowledgethe"positive"consequencesofcolo-nial rule forcertainaspectsofwomen'slives,ifnotinterms of actualpractice,atleastatthelevelof ideasabout "women'srights."Amongsuchreinterpretersof Indiantradition,RammohunRoyholds aprivilegedplaceasthefirstnineteenth-centuryIndianfiguretoundertakepubliclysuch a criticalexaminationofIndianheritage,bothinhis standagainstsatiand also moregenerallyinhisattemptstoreformulateHinduism. There is anenormousbodyof literature onRammohun asthe fatherofthe so-calledBengalRenaissance,rangingfromadulation,todenunciation,tothe more measuredappreciationextended tohimbySumitSarkar,RajatRay,andothers,who havear-guedthat Rammohun should be historicized.4 Sarkar believesthatRammohun'smodernityiscontradictoryandassuch reflects theob-jectiveconditions of colonialsubjugation,whichin hisviewproducesnot a "full-bloodedbourgeoismodernity"butonlya"weakand dis-tortedcaricature"of the same.5Inotherwords,Sarkareescolonialismasapartialmodernizingforce andwarnsagainstthesimplistic applica-tion of narrativesofprogressivemodernization toastudyofnine-teenth-centuryIndia.Thisisanimportantinterventioninthe debatesonmodernization.However,it leavesunproblematizedthecontentoftheconcepts"tradition" and"modernity."Iwillargueinthispaperthatpartof theprojectofhistoricallycon-
3.There isconsiderable debateamong politicaleconomists astowhetheror not co-lonial ruleproducedconditions thatwerefavorable to thedevelopmentofcapitalisminIndia. Forinstance,A.K.Bagchihasarguedthat colonial rule de-industrializedIn-dia;see his"De-industrializationinIndiainthe NineteenthCentury:SomeTheoreti-calImplications,"JournalfDevelopmenttudies12(1975-76):135-64.For acriticaldis-cussion ofcolonial economichistoriography,see thespecialissueReinterpretationfNineteenth-Centuryndian EconomicHistoryof IndianEconomicndSocial HistoryReview5,no. 1.Thisdebate doesnotaffectmyargumenthere,for,whatever theiranalysisof theimpactofcolonialism on India's transitionfrom feudalismtocapitalism,allscholarsagreethat colonialismheld thepromiseofmodernityandinspireda criticalself-exam-inationofindigenoussocietyand culture.4.See V.C.Joshi,ed.,RammohunoyandtheProcessofModernizationnIndia(NewDel-hi:Vikas,1975),especiallySumitSarkar,"RammohunRoyandthe Break withthePast,"46-68,andRajatK.Ray'sintroductionto thevolume,1-20.5.Sarkar,"RammohunRoyand the Break withthePast,"63.

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