Robcis, Camille

Associate Professor of History and French

Office Hours

Spring 2021: Zoom, Tuesdays 1pm-3pm



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


Interests and Research

Camille Robcis specializes in modern European intellectual history, with a focus on nineteenth- and twentieth-century France. Her interests have circled around three issues: the historical construction of norms, the intellectual production of knowledge, and the articulation of universalism and difference in modern French history. 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, is forthcoming with the University of Chicago Press. It traces the history of institutional psychotherapy, a movement born in France during the Second World War that called for the profound transformation of the theory and practice of psychiatric care, through the lens of Marxism and Lacanian psychoanalysis. According to institutional psychotherapy, the asylum could function as a microcosm for society at large, as a space to promote non-hierarchal and non-authoritarian political and social structures, as a template to better understand alienation and offer perspectives for “disalienation.” Her book explores the intersections of psychiatry, philosophy, and politics in the works of several figures for whom institutional psychotherapy was important, including François Tosquelles, Jean Oury, Félix Guattari, Frantz Fanon, Georges Canguilhem, Michel Foucault, Paul Éluard, and Jean Dubuffet. 

Robcis is currently working on a new project, tentatively titled The Gender Question:
Populism, National Reproduction, and the Crisis of Representation in which she tries to make sense of the protests against the so-called “theory of gender” that have raged in various parts of the world since the 1990s, especially in their conceptual links to populism.



  • HIST 2332: European Intellectual History (previously HIST 1768)
  • CC 1101 & CC 1102: Contemporary Civilization I&II
  • HIST GR8938: Gender as Critique
  • HIST GR8098: European Social Thought

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 

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

Disalienation: Politics, Philosophy, and Radical Psychiatry in France
(Forthcoming with the University of Chicago Press, 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

Liberté, égalité, hétérosexualité: interview with Camille Regache for

“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.