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Camille Robcis

Associate Professor

Mcgraw Hall, Room 455

Educational Background

  • Ph.D.       Cornell University, Modern European History, 2007
  • B.A.          Brown University, History and Modern Culture & Media, 1999


My research focuses on three broad issues: the relationships among intellectuals, ideas, and politics; the historical construction of norms; and the articulation of universalism and difference in the context of modern France.

My first book, The Law of Kinship: Anthropology, Psychoanalysis, and the Family in Twentieth-Century France (Cornell University Press, 2013), 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 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, truly “disoccupy” the minds of patients, and ultimately revolutionize society.  Institutional psychotherapy shaped various psychotic clinics throughout the world and 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, Tristan Tzara, 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 more specifically 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 have taught courses on modern European history, French history, intellectual history, historiography, gender and sexuality, psychoanalysis, contemporary critical theory, and European social and political thought.

Fall 2016 Course Syllabi:

HIST 3626 Revolution 


  • Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program
  • History
  • Jewish Studies Program
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies Program
  • Religious Studies Program


  • History of Modern France
  • European Cultural and Intellectual History
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Historiography
  • History of Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis
  • Social and Political Theory
  • Law and Society
  • Religion, Secularism, and Modernity



The Law of Kinship: Anthropology, Psychoanalysis, and the Family in France (Cornell UP, 2013).

Articles and Book Chapters

“François Tosquelles and the Psychiatric Revolution in Postwar France,” Constellations, Vol. 23, Issue 2 (June 2016) (Special Issue on “Psychoanalysis and Critical Theory”), 212-222.

“The Biopolitics of Dignity,” The South Atlantic Quarterly, Vol.115, No.2 (April 2016) (Special Issue: “Life After Biopolitics”), 313-330.

“Catholics, the ‘Theory of Gender,’ and the Turn to the Human in France: A New Dreyfus Affair? ” The Journal of Modern History, Vol.87, No.4 (December 2015), 892-923.

 “Liberté, Égalité, Hétérosexualité: Race and Reproduction in the French Gay Marriage Debates,” Constellations, Vol.22, Issue 3 (September 2015), 447-461.

 “Republicanism and the Critique of Human Rights” in France since the 1970s: History, Politics and Memory in an Age of Uncertainty, ed. Emile Chabal (Bloomsbury Academic, 2014), 225-243.

“Lévi-Strauss’s Structuralist Social Contract,” Yale French Studies 123 (July 2013), 145-165 (Special Issue: “Rethinking Lévi-Strauss (1908 – 2009)”).

“‘China In Our Heads:’ Althusser, Maoism, and Structuralism,” Social Text 110, Vol.30, No. 1 (Spring 2012), 51-69  (Special Issue: “China and the Human”).

“French Sexual Politics from Human Rights to the Anthropological Function of the Law,” French Historical Studies 33.1 (Winter 2010), 129-156.

“Féminisme radical et politique non gouvernementale” Vacarme, Numéro 34, Hiver 2006 :

“How the Symbolic Became French: Kinship and Republicanism in the PACS Debates,” Discourse 26.3 (Fall 2004), 110-135  (Special Issue: “The Problem of Marriage in the New Century”).


Other Media

“Decolonizing Secularism” (forum on Saba Mahmood’s Religious Difference in a Secular Age), Syndicate Theology, July 2016

“Universalist Politics and Its Crises,” Vikerkaar 3/2016 (Estonian version); Eurozine (English version),  conversation with Aro Velmet:

“History, Theory, and Limit Events” (forum on Richard Keller’s Fatal Isolation), Somatosphere: Science, Medicine, and Anthropology, July 2015

“Is Secularism Still Christian?” (forum on Samuel Moyn’s Christian Human Rights), The Immanent Frame, June 26, 2015:

“The Limits of Republicanism,” Jacobin, January 26, 2015:

“Gender Trouble in France,” an Interview with Kevin Duong, Jacobin, December 8, 2014:

“Jean Oury and the Clinique de La Borde: A Conversation with Camille Robcis,” Somatosphere: Science, Medicine, and Anthropology, June 2014

Interview with Roxanne Panchashi for the New Books in French Studies Podcast, February 2014