The Pain of the Others: Sati in British Colonial Narratives
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The Pain of the Others: Sati in British Colonial Narratives
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Svetlana Sidorova 
Affiliation: Institute of Oriental Studies RAS
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow

The article deals with another’s physical pain as a crucial element of sati, ritual of a Hindu widow’s immolation on her husband’s funeral pyre, as it is treated in the official colonial texts. Based on the idea of E. Scarry about verbal inexpressibility of physical pain and therefore its non-representation in political discourse, the author demonstrates how the British authorities actualized the cruel tradition as an unusual, incomprehensible phenomenon of unknown and barbaric world. In this context another’s pain was perceived mainly as others’ pain, and it was these others who became the main focus of the British interest and attention. So sati appeared to be not so much an atrocious method to pass away as ethnographic material which had to be examined. In the issue the British activity directed to abolition of this rite was in essence the practice of getting knowledge of the strange world rather than elimination of stranger’s pain. This led to the postponement of abolition for years to come and made the process extremely bureaucratic.

sati, pain, India, colonialism
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