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Humanities 2014, 3(3), 283-298; doi:10.3390/h3030283

Murderous Ritual versus Devotional Custom: The Rhetoric and Ritual of Sati and Women’s Subjectivity in Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies

English Language and Culture, Philosophical Faculty, University of Eastern Finland, 80101 Joensuu, Finland
Received: 6 May 2014 / Revised: 6 June 2014 / Accepted: 16 June 2014 / Published: 27 June 2014
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Abstract

The representation of the practice of sati, the immolation of widows on their husbands’ funeral pyre, has garnered interest for long from postcolonial and feminist discourses among others. While advocates of Western modernity perceive sati as a murderous ritual, the proponents of orthodox Hinduism, on the contrary, claim sati to be a courageous cult of “wifely devotion”. In both bigoted beliefs, as poststructuralists observe, women largely appear as “mute objects”. Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies (2008) brilliantly sidelines the conundrum of polarizing representation of sati along the East-West axis and reflects instead the subjective experience of women as sati. The article examines how the rhetoric and ritual of sati in the novel enable marginalized women to acquire consciousness of their subjectivity in a colonized society. To this end, the paper analyzes deconstructive readings of sati, such as by Gayatri Spivak, and explores the way the novel uses religion as a ploy, which, instead of perpetrating violence, confers a subjective entity on the sati that can even subvert the constrictive norms of a colonized society.
Keywords: Sati; Sea of Poppies; women’s subjectivity; Gayatri Spivak; colonized society; religion Sati; Sea of Poppies; women’s subjectivity; Gayatri Spivak; colonized society; religion
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Sarkar, B. Murderous Ritual versus Devotional Custom: The Rhetoric and Ritual of Sati and Women’s Subjectivity in Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies. Humanities 2014, 3, 283-298.

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