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The 'civilizing mission': The regulation and control of mourning in colonial India

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Abstract

The control of women's public form of mourning in India was undertaken in the colonial era by male social reformers. The article argues that this was both a part of the process which enabled the consolidation of colonial rule - since laments were repositories for the social memory of the dead which could lead to vendettas - and that this fed into the construction of a specific domestic ideology. The latter was predicated on the privatization and interiorization of grief, whereby women were enjoined to bear themselves with rectitude. The taming of the transgressive form of mourning, whereby women who had earlier exhibited their grievances in a spectacular form through lament, took to more quietist (devotional) forms, has reconfigured the relationship to death and mourning. However, this has been a partial phenomenon, limited to the upper-caste, middle-class milieu. Where women continue to hold a dependent position within community, nation-state and international economy, the article suggests that, in contexts of modern conflicts and warfare, where death runs 'wild', the exhibitionist and 'wild' forms of showing grief and anger continue to be demonstrated by women as an appropriate public response

Topics: HQ
Publisher: ROUTLEDGE
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:13003
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