During the nineteenth century, Lemuria was imagined as a land that once bridged India and Africa but disappeared into the ocean millennia ago, much like Atlantis. A sustained meditation on a lost place from a lost time, this elegantly written book is the first to explore Lemuria’s incarnations across cultures, from Victorian-era science to Euro-American occultism to colonial and postcolonial India. The Lost Land of Lemuria widens into a provocative exploration of the poetics and politics of loss to consider how this sentiment manifests itself in a fascination with vanished homelands, hidden civilizations, and forgotten peoples. More than a consideration of nostalgia, it shows how ideas once entertained but later discarded in the metropole can travel to the periphery—and can be appropriated by those seeking to construct a meaningful world within the disenchantment of modernity. Sumathi Ramaswamy ultimately reveals how loss itself has become a condition of modernity, compelling us to rethink the politics of imagination and creativity in our day.
Sumathi Ramaswamy is Associate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, editor of Beyond Appearances: Visual Practices and Ideologies in Modern India (2003), and author of Passions of the Tongue: Language Devotion in Tamil India, 1891–1970 (California, 1997).
“An evocative study of seeking and seekers.”—Philip Jenkins Books & Culture: A Christian Review
“Ramaswamy’s work is intellectually sophisticated, elegant, and rich. . . . A remarkable work and a major contribution to intellectual and cultural history.”—Kumkum Chatterjee American Historical Review
“The book is well researched and provides a unique perspective on the various fascinating incarnations of Lemuria.”—R. Fritze Choice: Current Reviews For Academic Libraries
"This path-breaking book makes novel and riveting connections between scientists and occultists in the West and Tamil nationalists in India. Ramaswamy's history of the fabulous and lost continent of Lemuria is a brilliant demonstration of how imagination travels."—Dipesh Chakrabarty, author of Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference
"Sumathi Ramaswamy's important book is sure to ignite fresh interest in the place of lost lands in the modern imaginary. Her fascinating account of the least known of these—Lemuria—breathes new life into the centrality of 'labors of loss' in nationalist historiography. In refusing to dismiss such narratives as eccentric and inconsequential, Ramaswamy compels scholars to look anew at the fabulous and occult in order to understand the shaping of scientific and colonial modernity. Impeccably researched and elegantly written, this is altogether a marvelous read."—Gauri Viswanathan, Columbia University, author of Outside the Fold: Conversion, Modernity, and Belief