Charles des Portes

Charles des Portes

Research interests

My thesis starts with the constatation that, in western feminist theory, freedom tends to be assimilated to liberation. I argue that this assimilation is the result of an oblivion of freedom in favour of a theory of the subject. When examining different feminist theories from liberal, to Marxist and postmodern traditions, freedom is conceptualised as a theory of the sovereign subject. However, I submit that these subject-centred theories are embedded in coloniality because rooted in what I call an ontology of seizure, which is characterised by a material or symbolic appropriation. In other words, unfreedom is the condition of these western conceptions of freedom. I exemplify this conditional appropriation by the use of the slave metaphor in feminist theory as the privileged heuristic device to theorise the free subject.  

In response, my thesis aims to provide a non-subject-centred understanding of freedom as well as reframing of its relationship with liberation. I suggest to analyse freedom from what Frantz Fanon called ‘the zone of nonbeing’, by using a decolonial and a hermeneutic phenomenological approach that I take from Hannah Arendt. I start my investigation from her deconstruction of freedom and her alternative understanding of it as action. Accordingly, and by investigating into lived experiences in colonial settings, I suggest that freedom, understood as a political phenomenon has three dimensions. First it is an embodied ontological resistance that changes the organisation of society, denoting an authentic dialectic between the body and the world. Second, I contend that freedom is an an-archic mode of organisation characterised by a trialectic between the self, the collective and the world. Third, I suggest that freedom precedes liberation, precisely because liberation is a guiding principle of action. Liberation is an open-ended process and freedom is the non-linear movement that leads to it.


Research interests:

  • Political Philosophy
  • Phenomenology & Existentialism
  • Hannah Arendt
  • Frantz Fanon
  • Decolonial Thought
  • Feminist Philosophy

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Contemporary Political Theory