Skip to main content
more options

Camille Robcis


Associate Professor

Office: 455 McGraw Hall
Phone: (607) 255-5724
Fax: (607) 255-0469

Office Hours: By Appointment

Research and Teaching Interests

Research and Teaching Interests

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.


For more information and links to current courses, go to: History's Courses Page

Courses Taught at Cornell University

Lecture Courses

Modern France 1789-present
19th Century Cultural and Intellectual European History
20th Century Cultural and Intellectual European History
The Death of God
The Making of Modern Europe: 1500 – Present
The History of the Present

Undergraduate Seminars

French Social Thought from Rousseau to Foucault
The Origins of the Social
Freud and His Commentators
French Theory After May '68

Graduate Seminars

History and Ideology
Global Intellectual Histories
The Problem With Rights


Ph.D. Cornell University, 2007
B.A. Brown University, 1999

Selected Publications and Awards



The Law of Kinship: Anthropology, Psychoanalysis, and the Family in Twentieth-Century France (Cornell University Press, 2013).

Articles and Chapters:

“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.

"May '68 and the Ethical Turn in French Thought," Modern Intellectual History, Vol.11, No.1 (April 2014), 267-277.

"Lévi-Strauss's Structuralist Social Contract," Yale French Studies 123 (July 2013), 145-165.

"'China In Our Heads:' Althusser, Maoism, and Structuralism," Social Text 110, Vol.30, No. 1 (Spring 2012), 51-69.

"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” in Discourse 26.3 (Fall 2004):110-135.

Other Media:

“Is Secularism Still Christian?”,  The Immanent Frame, June 26, 2015:

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

“Gender Trouble in France,” (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

Recent Awards and Fellowships

Institute for Advanced Studies, Spring 2016

Remarque Institute Fellowship, NYU, Fall 2015

National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 2015-2016

Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar on “Political Will”, 2014-2015

Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Book Prize, 2013

Faculty Fellowship, The Society for the Humanities, 2013-2014

LAPA Fellowship, Princeton Program in Law and Public Affairs, 2011-2012

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship, Penn Humanities Forum, 2007-2008