Only in a place like France do the texts and theories of towering intellectual figures like Claude Levi-Strauss and Jacques Lacan come up in public and political discussions of family policy and law. Camille Robcis
's new book, The Law of Kinship: Anthropology, Psychoanalysis, and the Family in France
(Cornell University Press, 2013) was in part inspired by contemporary French references to structural anthropology and psychoanalysis in contentious debates (within and outside of the National Assembly) about things like same-sex marriage, reproduction, and homosexual adoption. The book is a fascinating political, legal, and intellectual history that takes readers from the Napoleonic Code of 1804 right up to major French societal rifts over the family in recent years.
Examining the work of early "familialists" who argued for the family as essential to "the social", Robcis goes on to read Levi-Strauss and Lacan in relationship to ideas and policies dealing with the family in broader political and legal context in France. The book also illuminates the roles of key French "bridge-figures" who translated complex structuralist and psychoanalytic ideas about kinship and "the symbolic", bringing these notions into more widespread political and public discourse. This is a history with important implications for how we understand contemporary struggles over French republicanism, universalism, and what defines the family in terms both theoretical and practical.