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Chapter 6 Mapping Loss The best of all Good Companions to take with you to a strange place is undoubtedly a MAP.1 182 CARTOGRAPHIC LABORS OF LOSS In 1870, barely six years after it was born in the pages of the Quarterly Journal of Science, Sclater’s Lemuria found cartographic expression when a map featuring it appeared for the Wrst time in German (Fig. 3).2 Since then and up until today, when the internet and its world wide web have provided a new opportunity and a new context, maps of this vanished place-world have routinely put in an appearance in Europe, the United States, and India, giving Lemuria a cartographic identity that is as diverse as the discursive identity that I have documented here. Maps of Lemuria vary widely, ranging from those made to scale, with geometrically proportionate representations of the earth’s (paleo) surface, to ones that are no more than rough sketches with hastily drawn outlines of present continents and past lands. A triumphalist history of cartography which has typically narrated the story of maps in modernity as a heroic progress toward more scientiWcally accurate representations of geographical reality would perhaps dismiss many of these as not worthy of scholarly attention. This same history would also probably cast aspersions on these maps, for they are not about the real and present world but cartographies of fantasy that chart fabulous lands beyond the usual range of facts. For in this history, the story of the modern map is written as the eventual victory of empirical good science over irrational myth and fanciful imagination.3 Yet, here, I obviously take a different track, following the cue of a revisionist scholarship which deWnes maps as “graphic representations that facilitate a spatial understanding of things, concepts, conditions, processes or events in the human world.”4 Their signiWcance “derives from the fact that people make them to tell other people about the places or spaces they have experienced.”5 As Brian Harley observes, “Locating human actions in space remains the greatest intellectual achievement of the map as a form of knowledge.”6 Similarly, Denis Cosgrove writes, To map is in one way or another to take the measure of a world, and more than merely take it, to Wgure the measure so taken in such a way that it may be communicated between people, places or times. The measure of mapping is not restricted to the mathematical; it may equally be spiritual, political or moral. . . . Acts of mapping are creative, sometimes anxious, moments in coming to knowledge of the world, and the map is both the spatial embodiment of knowledge and a stimulus to further cognitive engagements.7 Accordingly, by the mere fact of their existence, the maps of Lemuria I consider here are instances of what I characterize as cartographic labors of loss undertaken to facilitate a spatial knowledge and cognitive understanding of vanished place-worlds and disappeared lands. Even as they bear testimony to the deployment of modern science in the service of loss, maps of Lemuria are also telltale signs of the modernity of the labors of loss that have produced them. For it is only with modernity that the map emerges as a guarantor of geographical reality, standing in for a given territory even when that territory might not exist, as Jean Baudrillard reminds us.8 This, then, is one of the primary reasons for the map’s popularity in Lemuria’s place-making. It enables all those who seek to convey the truth about the vanished place-world to mobilize the certitude guaranteed by modern cartographic practice in the service of their varied labors of loss. At the same time, the modern science of mapping poses three fundamental challenges for the cartographic labors around Lemuria, the density of which vary across the different discursive formations that I consider here, given their contrary investments in the lost place-world. First, cartography is useful for Lemuria’s place-makers because the map helps them bring into visual reality a land that would otherwise have remained invisible and hidden . It allows its reader to “see” Lemuria at one glance,9 and in relation to other lands, especially the continents, that make up today’s world. It encourages the reader to ponder over the size of the lost land, and to compare this to the extent of today’s continents. And it persuades the reader to imagine a world that looked very different from the earth s/he is...


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