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The collaborative research project Geographies of Freedom, initiated and developed by Egbert Alejandro Martina and Miguel Peres dos Santos, investigates the ways in which geography, architecture and the law produce, maintain, and spatialise freedom. It consists of a publication, a film, an exhibition at Het Nieuwe Instituut and a series of public events, centered around the questions “What is freedom and what constitutes a free life?”

The Netherlands prides itself on being both a beacon of, and a leading advocate for freedom in the world. Freedom is imagined as an inherent characteristic of the Dutch political tradition. So much so that Joost Röselaers and Paul Teule proposed nominating “Dutch Freedom” for recognition by UNESCO as an intangible heritage, as something that “we all continuously keep alive and pass on.”

The aim of the research project Geographies of Freedom is to challenge conventional understandings of freedom by refocusing attention on how the dynamic between race, architecture, the law, and geography determine who is a free subject. The central question is: how have architecture, the law, and geography been used to consolidate the spatiality of freedom? Martina and Peres dos Santos engage this question through a reflection on the historically significant court case of Claes, an enslaved man who escaped from Curaçao to the Netherlands and claimed his freedom.

The project begins from the premise that a primary root of modern Dutch whiteness can be found in the foundational myths of Dutch freedom, especially in how that freedom was imagined, articulated, and performed during a crucial period: the 18th century. The project argues for the need to look beyond the narrative of the Netherlands’ relationship with freedom as a(n intangible) heritage to the less familiar story of the Republic’s prolonged interest in freedom as part of the political economy of its rule.

We understand “freedom” as a form of architecture—not as an architectural object, but as the production and reproduction of space. In order to support this claim, we will analyse how the infrastructures of (settler/extractive) colonialism, slavery, and capitalism structured mobility/accessibility and privileged a legal and spatial understanding of freedom, that is the when and where of “freedom.” – Egbert Martina and Miguel Peres dos Santos

Geographies of Freedom proposes that investigating the ways in which freedom has been imagined, theorized, and enshrined in the law can lead to a more critical understanding of geography, and architecture’s role in society. As such, the project examines the spatial and legal practices required in the making and maintaining of “spaces of freedom.”

Geographies of Freedom Research Meetings

Three gatherings on different parts of the inquiry, on 19 February, 19 March and 23 April 2019, respectively. The capacity is limited. In order to join the meeting and participate in the exchange, please leave your name, e-mail address and a motivation (of no more than 150 words) via the project's contact form


Research Meeting 19.02.2019


Research Meeting 19.03.2019


Research Meeting 23.04.2019
Delany Boutkan, Marten Kuijpers, Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, Setareh Noorani
Alex Walker