The Law of Kinship: Anthropology, Psychoanalysis, and the Family in France
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
In France as elsewhere in recent years, legislative debates over single-parent households, same-sex unions, new reproductive technologies, transsexuality, and other challenges to long-held assumptions about the structure of family and kinship relations have been deeply divisive. What strikes many as uniquely French, however, is the extent to which many of these discussions―whether in legislative chambers, courtrooms, or the mass media―have been conducted in the frequently abstract vocabularies of anthropology and psychoanalysis.
In this highly original book, Camille Robcis seeks to explain why and how academic discourses on kinship have intersected and overlapped with political debates on the family―and on the nature of French republicanism itself. She focuses on the theories of Claude Levi-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. Robcis traces how their ideas gained recognition not only from French social scientists but also from legislators and politicians who relied on some of the most obscure and difficult concepts of structuralism to enact a series of laws concerning the family.
Levi-Strauss and Lacan constructed the heterosexual family as a universal trope for social and psychic integration, and this understanding of the family at the root of intersubjectivity coincided with the role that the family has played in modern French law and public policy. The Law of Kinship contributes to larger conversations about the particularities of French political culture, the nature of sexual difference, and the problem of reading and interpretation in intellectual history.
de France, 2003). Soon after the foundation of the CCNE, other European countries followed France’s example in entrusting ethical issues to a body of experts: Sweden in 1985, Denmark in 1987, Luxembourg in 1988, the Netherlands in 1989, and Italy in 1990. 9. Sicard, Travaux du comité consultatif, 102. 10. Ibid., 81. 11. Ibid., 113. 12. Ibid., 134. 13. Actes du colloque génétique, procréation et droit (Actes Sud, 1985), 80–81. 14. Ibid., 81. 15. Ibid., 39. 16. Ibid., 41. 17. Robert
family policy. Like Pétain, Renaudin denounced, in terms reminiscent of Le Play’s, the “one hundred and fifty years of legal individualism, an economy of production and competition, industrial work that makes the family explode, a regime of goods and transmissions that pulverizes our heritage, the dissolution of mores, the generalization of a spirit contemptuous of all hierarchy . . . The familial foundation, built on authority, discipline, solidarity, and future life, has given way.”106
utilitarian and idealistic conceptions of society, Le Play never believed that it was possible to grasp the “social whole,” or society in its totality. For more on this comparison, see Catherine Bodard Silver, ed., Frédéric Le Play on Family, Work, and Social Change (University of Chicago Press, 1982), 126. 23. I am borrowing here from Silver’s introduction (ibid.). 24. Blum, Critics of the Enlightenment, xxxviii; Bernard Kalaora and Antoine Savoye, “Frédéric Le Play, un sociologue engagé,” in
thinking about French universalism and difference in the first place and inspired me to become a historian. Len Tennenhouse, Nancy Armstrong, Mary Ann Doane, Elizabeth Weed, and Neil Lazarus taught me how to think critically. So many of the ideas in this book emerged from discussions I had with Éric Fassin, Michel Feher, and Michel Tort. Beth Povinelli and Lou Roberts were critical in helping me reconceptualize the book manuscript. Joan Scott agreed to read my work when she barely knew me and she
the key to its intelligibility. The guarantee that one would find the parents-children relationship at the root of everyone’s sexuality made it possible—even when everything seemed to point to the reverse process—to keep the deployment of sexuality coupled to the system of alliance. There was no risk that sexuality would appear to be by nature, alien to the law: it was constituted only though the law. Parents, do not be afraid to bring your children to analysis: it will teach them that in any