Camille Robcis

Camille Robcis

Research Interests
History of Modern France; Cultural and Intellectual History; Critical Theory; Gender & Sexuality; History of Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis; Legal and Political Theory. 

My first book, The Law of Kinship: Anthropology, Psychoanalysis, and the Family in France was published by Cornell University Press and won the 2013 Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Book Prize.  It examines how and why French judges and legislators turned to structuralism – and more specifically, to some of the most difficult and abstract concepts of Claude Lévi-Strauss and Jacques Lacan – to reassert the centrality of the heterosexual family in political debates around bioethics, same-sex unions, single-parent households, family names, surrogacy, and adoption.

I am currently working on two projects.  The first, tentatively titled Disalienation: Politics, Philosophy, and Radical Psychiatry in France, is a history of institutional psychotherapy, a psychiatric reform movement born in France after the Second World War.  Anchored in Marxism and in Lacanian psychoanalysis, institutional psychotherapy advocated a radical restructuring of the asylum in order to transform the theory and practice of psychiatric care and ultimately revolutionize society.  Institutional psychotherapy had an important influence on many intellectuals and activists, including François Tosquelles, Jean Oury, Félix Guattari, Frantz Fanon, Georges Canguilhem, and artists such as Paul Éluard and Jean Dubuffet.

My second project explores the legacy of social Catholicism in contemporary French law.  In this context, I have written on the recent protests against gay marriage in France and on the Catholic attack against a “theory of gender” presented as both the origin and the outcome of gay marriage.  I have also been interested in the revival of concepts derived from political Catholicism (such as the person and dignity) as tools to reorganize the social and the sexual.

I received my B.A. in History and Modern Culture & Media from Brown University in 1999 and my Ph.D. in History from Cornell in 2007.  Prior to coming to Columbia, I taught at Cornell for ten years.  I have received fellowships from the Penn Humanities Forum, LAPA (Princeton Law and Public Affairs), the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute for Advanced Study. 

Selected Publications