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September 2021

Hard to swallow: women, poison, and Hindu widowburning, 1500-1700

Journal/Book: Continuity Change. 2000; 15: 40 West 20Th Street, New York, NY 10011-4211, USA. Cambridge Univ Press. 187+.

Abstract: Early modern travelogues uncover the cultural implications of the recurrent use of an anecdote claiming widowburning as a social response to the 'custom' of Indian wives poisoning their husbands. Indian scriptural, social or judicial data offer no explanation, but social trends in early modern Europe - criminal trials, witchcraft, women prescribing home remedies, and textual resurrections of husband-killers - together suggest that travellers may have substituted European phenomena for their exotic Indian experiences. The tale mediates between India and Europe, functioning as a rhetorical device, authenticating and adding evidentiary weight to these narratives, and setting up the discursive framework for future colonial discourses.

Note: Article Banerjee P, Univ Colorado, Dept English, Denver,CO 80202 USA


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