Gunnar Olsson, Arkography: A Grand Tour through the Taken-for-Granted – University of Nebraska Press, May 2020
In this fascinating text Gunnar Olsson tells the story of an arkographer, who with Pallas Athene’s blessings, travels down the Red River Valley, navigates the Kantian Island of Truth, and takes a house-tour through the Crystal Palace, the latter edifice an imagination grown out of Gunnael Jensson’s sculpture Mappa Mundi Universalis. This travel story carries the arkographer from the oldest creation epics extant to the power struggles of today—nothing less than a codification of the taken-for-granted, a mapping of the no-man’s-land between the five senses of the body and the sixth sense of culture. By constantly asking how we are made so obedient and predictable, the explorer searches for the present-day counterparts to the biblical ark, the chest that held the commandments and the rules of behavior that came with them—hence the term “arkography,” a word hinting at an as-yet-unrecognized discipline.
In Arkography Olsson strips bare the governing techniques of self-declared authorities, including those of the God of the Old Testament and countless dictators, the latter supported by a horde of lackeys often disguised as elected representatives and governmental functionaries. From beginning to end, Arkography is an illustration of how every creation epic is a variation on the theme of chaos turning into cosmic order. A palimpsest of layered meanings, a play of things and relations, identity and difference. One and many, you and me.
This book is a significant contribution to what might be configured as the meeting points between academic geography, Western philosophy, critical social science, and arts-humanistic experimentation. It is the major reference point, the go-to source, for anyone wishing to familiarize themselves with the extraordinarily rich arc of Olsson’s thinking over the past four-plus decades.”—Christopher Philo, professor of geography at the University of Glasgow
“Olsson continues to be an exciting thinker because he situates key problems within the field of geography in the broader contexts of Western humanism. . . . A fun, weird, inspiring, and engaging theoretical work. . . . It is a fascinating contribution that will likely be viewed as the capstone work of a major thinker.”—Keith Woodward, assistant professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin–Madison