Women's Rights in Modern Indian History

In her essay, Contentious Traditions: The Debate on Sati in Colonial India, Lata Mani emphasizes that "it is important to write the history of colonial discourse, to trace its effects on the constitution of our systematic and commonsense knowledges of our tradition, culture and identity" (Mani, 120). She critiques at length the view that "tradition... is... a timeless and structuring principle of Indian society" (Mani, 116). This view is very much in keeping with "an official western discourse on India... of moral superiority that acknowledged India's greatness but only in terms of her scriptural past" (Mani, 114). The Indian (cultural) nationalist discourse formed itself perilously from this western (colonial) discourse in its attempt to find a distinctive, spiritually superior culture that constituted the inner domain of Indian society, so it could be upheld and preserved as something that the colonizers could not change (Chatterjee, 239). Such a distinctive culture, or tradition, formed the inner domain of Indian society. In this dichotomous view, only the outer domain of the modern, material world had been colonized (ibid).

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