Feminist Review

, Volume 74, Issue 1, pp 81–97 | Cite as

The liminal body: the language of pain and symbolism around Sati

  • Aishwarya Lakshmi


Recent scholarship on sati has stressed the fact that the ‘problem’ of sati is that the problem extends far beyond and begins far before the act itself. One of the things that lies prior to and post the act is language, yet sati is an act that stands in a curious relationship to language. I will examine the relationship between the physical act of sati and the language that surrounds it: the ‘story’ prior to the act which gives the act its meaning; the act itself which stands in an ironic relationship to the story – I will argue that the act is in fact possible only because it displaces the original story, so that every act of becoming sati presents itself not as a radical act in experience, but as an ‘acting out’ of the original story. It is in this acting out of a displaced story, that the boundary between the physical act and language becomes obscured and the body doing the act begins to occupy a liminal position, as it itself begins to function as a language – a language, which in its aspect of an ‘acting out’ obscures its own act. Lastly, I will consider the implications of the symbolic language of sati for the contemporary woman.


symbolic liminal acting out acting self realistic 


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© Feminist Review Ltd 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aishwarya Lakshmi

There are no affiliations available

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