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Real and Imagined Women explores the position of the female subject in a postcolonial state, focusing on the practice and representation of sati--the practice of burning widows with their husband's funeral pyres. Rajeswari Sunder Rajan investigates the problematic relationship between the "theory" of the "first world" against the "matter" of the "third"--that is, she brings postcolonial theory to bear on the politics of gender, religion, and culture of contemporary India.
She covers a range of subjects such as: pre-colonial Tamil and Indian texts and colonial Imperialist texts; Indian writings and films; women's victimization by forms of sanctioned violence and their fraught, if passive, subject-position; contemporary novels by Indian women writers, and the "elite" woman-as-leader, focusing on the discourse generated by Indira Gandhi.
Real and Imagined Women offers a challenging mode of "reading resistance" which destroys the stereotyped and sensationalist humanist image of the "third world woman" as victim.