free the map

Free the Map From Atlas to Hermes: a new cartography of borders and mirgration

Henk van Houtum

With contributions by
Rodrigo Bueno Lacy
Tofe Al-Obaidi
Yishay Garbasz
Susanne Khalil Yusef
Nicolas Lambert
Sarah Mekdjian
Ruben Pater
Philippe Rekacewicz
Malkit Shoshan
Jonas Staal
Irene Stracuzzi
Annelys de Vet
Jasmijn Visser
Denis Wood

Free the map website

In collaboration with
Koninklijke Bibliotheek

With support by
Creative Industries Fund

Photography maplab
Mortaza Rezaie

Photography book
Medea Huisman

A map is a visual story of the world. It feeds our imagination and shapes our view of the world. A standard atlas, however, predominantly tells only one story, that of the nation-state. It depicts a world in which people are uniformly packed into national containers, enclosed by borders, and in which migration is often represented by threatening arrows of invasion.

Free the Map goes beyond this narrow, state-centric cartography. The book argues for a new cartographic story: a Hermes – the grandson of Atlas and the god of mobility and human connections. To this end, it discusses several visually compelling, alternative cartographic representations of borders and migration.

Free the Map ends with a call to action.
Various artists and cartographers offer exciting ready-to-use Hermes challenges for education and public Maplabs.

Are you curious about the book and our process? The BNO (Association for Dutch Developers) conducted an interview about the creation and our studio. Check the interview with this link (in Dutch)

maplab introductie

Let’s free the map from its territorial trap!

Prodution & Organisation
Henk van Houtum & De Vormforensen

Publisher & Distribution

Brigitte van Heck

Image & Copyright assistence
Coen Soeteman


This book is:

An innovative, relational cartography on borders and migration
Beyond the static and nativist gaze of borderlines and threatening migration arrows
With exciting mapping assignments for Maplabs and education
On counter-maps showing human relations, experiences, and connections






about Prof. Henk van Houtum

Henk van Houtum is Professor of Geopolitics and Political Geography at Radboud University and head of the Nijmegen Centre for Border Research. He writes and teaches on the cartography and geopolitics of borders, migration and global justice. He also regularly publishes on these topics in the media. His previous books include: Beyond Fortress Europe (2016/2017), written with Leo Lucassen and Borderland; History and Future of the Border Landscape (2013) with Mark Eker.

Keep in me updated