Robcis, Camille

Professor of History and French

Office Hours

Spring 2024: Mondays, 1:00 - 3:00 pm. Please book an appointment by clicking here.


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


Interests and Research

Camille Robcis specializes in modern European history (with a focus on 19th and 20th century France), gender and sexuality, and intellectual, cultural, and legal history. In both her teaching and her research, she examines the relationship between texts and their various contexts (cultural, social, political, economic). Prior to coming to Columbia, she taught at Cornell for ten years.

Robcis is the author of The Law of Kinship: Anthropology, Psychoanalysis, and the Family in France which was published by Cornell University Press and which 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.

Her second book, Disalienation: Politics, Philosophy, and Radical Psychiatry in Postwar France (Chicago, 2021) maps the intersections of politics, philosophy, and radical psychiatry in twentieth- century France. It focuses on a psychiatric movement called "institutional psychotherapy" which had an important influence on many intellectuals and activists, including François Tosquelles, Jean Oury, Felix Guattari, Frantz Fanon, Georges Canguilhem, and Michel Foucault. Anchored in Marxism and Lacanian psychoanalysis, institutional psychotherapy advocated a fundamental restructuring of the asylum in order to transform the theory and practice of psychiatric care. More broadly, For many of these thinkers, the asylum could function as a microcosm for society at large and as a space to promote non-hierarchal and non-authoritarian political and social structures. Psychiatry, they contended, provided a template to better understand alienation and offer perspectives for "disalienation."

Robcis is currently working on a project tentatively titled The War On Gender in which she tries to make sense of various arguments that have emerged in recent years against a so-called “theory of gender,” “gender ideology,” or “gender agenda.” According to its critics, this “gender ideology” has driven the push for a broad range of sexual and reproductive rights, from the legalization of abortion, access to contraception, same-sex marriage, sexual education in schools, non-discrimination bills, access to new reproductive technologies, trans rights, and much more. Her book traces the discursive origins of this “anti-genderism” to various UN conferences in the 1990s and it maps the global circulation of the term, first through the Vatican and its different think tanks, and later through other religious, right-wing, and populist groups.



  • HIST 1768: European Intellectual History 
  • CC 1101 & CC 1102: Contemporary Civilization I&II
  • HIST GR8938: Gender as Critique
  • HIST GR8098: European Social Thought
  • HIST GR8558: Race and Sexuality in Modern France and Its Empires (with Emmanuelle Saada)
  • HIST GR8392: Reading Social Theory (with Susan Pedersen)
  • CLFR GR6320: Sexualities: Medieval and Modern (with Eliza Zingesser)

Fellowships and Awards

  • John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, 2020
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 2015-2016
  • Institute for Advanced Study (Member of the School of Historical Studies), Spring 2016
  • Faculty Fellowship, The Society for the Humanities, Cornell University, 2013-2014
  • LAPA Fellowship, Program in Law and Public Affairs, Princeton University, 2011-2012
  • Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship, Penn Humanities Forum, University of Pennsylvania, 2007-2008



The Law of Kinship: Anthropology, Psychoanalysis, and the Family in France 

(French translation: La loi de la parenté: la famille, les experts, et la république)

Disalienation: Politics, Philosophy, and Radical Psychiatry in Postwar France(Chicago, 2021)

Recent Scholarly Articles

“Frantz Fanon, Institutional Psychotherapy, and the Decolonization of Psychiatry,” The
Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 81, Issue 2 (April 2020), 303-325.

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

“The Biopolitics of Dignity,” The South Atlantic Quarterly, Vol.115, No.2 (April 2016), 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.

“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.

“How the Symbolic Became French: Kinship and Republicanism in the PACS Debates,” Discourse 26.3 (Fall 2004), 110-135.

Other Media

Uncovering Radical Psychiatry and Institutional Psychotherapy in Postwar France” Interview for podcast Mad in America, March 2023.

Institutional Psychotherapy in Post-War France” in series titled “Object Relations” for Podcast Red Medicine (with Samuel Kelly), July 2022

Politics and the Psyche,” Humanities, Spring 2022, Vol, 43, Issue, 2

France and the Question of Consent,” Public Books, 9/29/2021

Interview with JJ Mull for the New Books in Psychoanalysis Podcast, June 2021

Liberté, égalité, hétérosexualité: interview with Camille Regache for

“Fanon and the Decolonization of Psychiatry,” Wiser Public Position Series: Fanon After Fanon, April 2021

Interview for Cornell’s Society for the Humanities Fellows Q&A Series, April 2021

"Why an IVF bill is the next fault line for the French Republic,” The Washington Post, 14
Oct. 2019

“Institutional Psychotherapy in France”: Hidden Persuaders, September 28, 2017.

“PMA: aux sources du débat français,” Médiapart, July 30, 2017.

Les structures familiales de la République,” La Suite dans les idées, France Culture, December 2012.

“Jean Oury and the Clinique de La Borde” Somatosphere: Science, Medicine, and Anthropology, June 2014. 

New Books in French Studies, February 2014.