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1 Chapter 1 Placing Loss The most fascinating terrae incognitae of all are those that lie within the minds and hearts of men.1 PLACE-MAKING IN THE SHADOW OF LOSS This is a book about place-making and imagining. It is about a place that once (might have) existed, but no more. No one involved in its making has ever seen it, much less lived there, and likely they never will. Its primary identity in their place-making labors is that it once was, but has since long vanished into the deep mists of time. It is a lost place from a lost time. This is also, therefore, a book about loss. I am interested in the preoccupation with loss as this manifests itself in the fascination with vanished homelands, hidden civilizations, and forgotten peoples and their ignored pasts that ranges from the passionate disinterest of the scholar to the melancholic yearning of the nostalgic. I propose that this preoccupation with the lost—and with the vanished, the disappeared, the hidden and the forgotten —is an inevitable, even irresistible, condition of modernity, but that its poetics and politics vary across life-worlds, ideologies, disciplines. I suggest that high modernity has not been merely preoccupied with progress and advance, but also with loss and disappearance. Correspondingly, loss is good to think in regard to what it means to be modern. And so, this is as well a book about disenchantment. Or more correctly, it is about the refusal to give up (entirely) on enchantment in a late-modern world where disenchantment is offered as the desirable norm to which we should all aspire as true moderns. As the rationalizations and intellectualizations of our physical and human sciences disavow truths that once mattered and discard wonders that had once captivated, the world is leached of magic, mystery, and marvel. How is a lost place made in the wake of such disenchantment ? This, too, is one of my concerns. But mostly, this is a book about Lemuria, a land that is declared to have once existed but that is no more. In following the discursive adventures of this vanished land across the globe, I consider the dilemmas confronting Lemuria’s place-makers as they seek to gain recognition for it on an earth from which it has catastrophically disappeared. I follow their struggles as they usher in a tangible presence out of sheer absence. And I explore their trials and victories as they allow themselves to be caught in the play of the fabulous in an intellectual climate that is Wercely impatient with things and matters that smack of magic and marvel. In doing all this, I argue for the politics and pleasures but also the pathos of making a lost land in an age and time that has been famously pronounced disenchanted. THE LOST LAND OF LEMURIA This is not the Wrst time that Lemuria has been subjected to scholarly scrutiny, although this certainly is the Wrst attempt to do so across cultures, transnationally and theoretically. Like Atlantis and Mu, Lemuria is a staple among those freelance scholars in Europe and the United States who write about Earth’s prehistory under the sign of “lost continent.” Indeed, the very category of “lost continent”—once widely deployed in the natural sciences— has today a purchase largely in this world of popular scholarship which caters to the interested educated reader who is, however, neither a specialist nor academically disciplined. The majority of these publications are clearly caught up in the wonder of it all as they crack the mystery of the Easter Island statues, or the ruins of Machu Picchu, by resorting to the lost continents of Atlantis, Lemuria, or Mu. Their very titles (Timeless Earth, Worlds before Our Own, Mysterious Places, Lands of Legend, and so on), formulaic and unsurprising though they might be, are also revealing of the fascination with disappeared realms, lost cultures, and vanished races that continues to fuel popular interest in places like Lemuria in our time.2 As the British archaeologist Glyn Daniel once observed tongue-in-cheek, We know only too well that all over the world, from wayward undergraduate to B.B.C. producer to publisher’s reader there are people, otherwise sensible and sane, people who would not believe in six-headed cats and blood-curdling spectral monsters, who yet read some folly about Noah’s ark or Atlantis or cataclysmic world-tides, and say, with a contented sigh, “There may be something in...


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