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The Lost Land of Lemuria: Fabulous Geographies, Catastrophic Histories [Paperback]

Sumathi Ramaswamy
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

1 Mar 2005
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.

Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; New Ed edition (1 Mar 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520244400
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520244405
  • Product Dimensions: 2.1 x 15.5 x 22.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,156,977 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"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"

About the Author

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).

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tamils can relate to a lost culture and land.. 24 July 2010
Format:Paperback
Perhaps Lemuria or "Kumarikanttam" is an idea or yearning of the Tamils for a land that was their's before any foot was set upon it by they who are driven to change the ways of the native people and in that mechanical process destroy the essence of a land of refined culture, devotion and beauty that once was..
Ramaswamy writes in his own distinctive narrative the confusion or feeling of loss that is present amongst those who understand and have a resentment of the colonial mechanism. Lemuria is as much a lost land as it is a lost way of life?
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing account of Tamil society, origins and aspirations ... 4 Mar 2012
By William Courson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Sumathi Ramaswamy, an associate professor of history at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor has written a captivating account of what in the West has come to be known as Lemuria, or Mu, a lost continent in the Southern hemisphere variously placed in either the Pacific or Indian oceans. First postulated in the mid-nineteenth century by geographers, biologists and evolutionary theorists as an explanatory mechanism for the similarity of flora and fauna found in Southeastern Africa, Madagascar and the Indian subcontinent, Lemuria captured the attention and imagination of occultists like Helena Petrovna Blavatsky - who saw the sunken land mass as the primordial home of a divinely engendered humankind - as well as nascent Tamil nationalists eager to promote the notion of a vast Tamil empire, now lost, whose sole contemporary remnant is the Tamil-speaking regions of Southernmost India and Northern Sri Lanka. It is on the role of this "lost world" in the elaboration of Tamil origins, identity, communal solidarity, and aspirations to nationhood that the author focuses.

Kumari Kandam is a land mass that is supposed to have sunk beneath the India Ocean sometime in middle to late prehistory, extending from the southern tip of peninsular India to Madagascar in the west, and Australia in the east. It is sometimes considered as part or all of Lemuria, a hypothetical continent variously located in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. References to Kumari Kandam can be found throughout the Tamil classical literature, detailing how that extensive land mass, the home of Tamil science, language and philosophy, occupied by the Tamil people in their peaceful and prosperous kingdoms since sentient life first emerged on the planet had been lost to the sea due to a succession of massive tidal waves and other catastrophes. Beginning amongst Europeans in the mid-nineteenth century, the more-or-less analogous Lemuria was imagined as a continent that once bridged India and Africa and disappeared into the ocean (either the Pacific or the Indian, depending on the account) millennia ago, much like Atlantis.

Ramaswamy's work is a sustained meditation on a lost place from a lost time, an elegantly written book that is (to my awareness) the first to explore Lemuria's incarnations across cultures, from Victorian-era science to Euro-American theosophical occultism to colonial and postcolonial India to the contemporary yearnings of Tamil nationalism and identity-building. 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, near-forgotten peoples and lost greatness. 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.

Ramaswamy's book is not only beautifully written and a most engaging read, it is also an important book, one which will force scholars to look anew at fabulous legends of lost lands and forgotten civilizations generally and more particularly at the greatness and global significance of Tamil civilization.
5.0 out of 5 stars One of very very few books about KumariKandam 10 Oct 2013
By Rajarajeswari Manivannan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
One of very very few books about KumariKandam. Very detailed study and yet to finish this. Great outline for my daughters 9th grade project
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