Camille Robcis, Mellon/LAPA Fellow in Law and the Humanities; Cornell University

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

Mon, 12/12/2011
4:30 - 6:00 PM, Kerstetter Room, Marx Hall
Event Category: 

We hope you will join us for a LAPA Seminar with Camille Robcis, Mellon/LAPA Fellow in Law and the Humanities and Assistant Professor of History at Cornell University, to discuss "The Law of Kinship:  Anthropology, Psychoanalysis, and the Politics of the Family in France." Her commentator will be John Borneman of the Department of Anthropology.

As always, the LAPA format asks that seminar participants familiarize themselves with the paper in advance. The commentator will open the session by summarizing the main themes in the paper and presenting some topics for discussion. The author then has the right of first response before we open to the floor for questions. The seminar will end with a brief reception in the Kerstetter Room, giving everyone a chance to mingle and meet.  The paper will be available in advance of the lecture. 

Abstract:  "My book examines the ways in which French anthropology, psychoanalysis, and family law have worked together since the beginning of the twentieth century to produce and promote particular definitions of the family and of the social body, intimately tying the two.  I focus on the works of Claude Lévi-Strauss and Jacques Lacan, both of whom highlighted the interdependence of the sexual and the social by positing a direct correlation between kinship and socialization.  I trace how their ideas gained recognition, not only from French social scientists, but also from legislators and politicians who relied on some of their most difficult concepts – such as the symbolic, the incest prohibition, psychosis, or the Name-of-the-Father – to enact a series of laws concerning the family."

Camille Robcis is an Assistant Professor of History at Cornell University. She has taught courses on modern French history, intellectual history, historiography, gender and sexuality, psychoanalysis, and European social and political thought. Robcis received her B.A. in History and Modern Culture and Media from Brown University and her Ph.D. in History from Cornell. After completing her doctorate in 2007, she was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Penn Humanities Forum. Her scholarship has focused 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. While at LAPA, Robcis will be revising her book manuscript: The Law of Kinship: Anthropology, Psychoanalysis, and the Politics of the Family in Twentieth-Century France, in which she examines how French policy makers have called upon structuralist anthropology and psychoanalysis (specifically, the works of Claude Levi-Strauss and Jacques Lacan) to reassert the centrality of sexual difference as the foundation for all social and psychic organization. She is also beginning a new project called "The Return of Republicanism," about French intellectual life in 1980s.

John Borneman has conducted fieldwork in Germany and Central Europe, and is currently engaged in research in Lebanon and Syria. He has completed projects on the symbolic forms of political identification, the relation of the state to everyday life, forms of justice and accountability, and on regime change. Currently he is working on an anthropology of secularism. From 1991 to 2001 he taught at Cornell University, and has been guest professor at the University of California, Berkeley; Stockholm University (Sweden); Bergen University (Norway); guest professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris (France); Fulbright Professor at Humboldt Universitaet zu Berlin (Germany) and the University of Aleppo (Syria). He has written widely on kinship, sexuality, nationality, and political form, with an ethnographic focus on Germany--and currently Lebanon. His most recent publications include Belonging in the Two Berlins: Kin, State, Nation (1992); Settling Accounts: Violence, Justice, and Accountability in Postsocialist States (1997); Subversions of International Order: Studies in the Political Anthropology of Culture (1998); Death of the Father: Toward an Anthropology of the End in Political Authority (2003), and The Case of Ariel Sharon and the Fate of Universal Jurisdiction (2004). Professor Borneman teaches courses on culture and international order, the anthropology of memory, and money, sex, and cultural diversity.