Communique Magazine  

Office Hours: Christopher Robichaud

From JFK Jr. Forum in the Littauer Building, go up the stairs and turn right . . .


Jaws drop the first time most students enter Christopher Robichaud’s office. The animated response is fitting for the senior lecturer in public policy’s workspace. On top of, between, and leaning against the books that line nearly every inch of the walls—save the window looking out over John F. Kennedy Memorial Park—are memorabilia ranging from collector-edition action figures to a vintage-inspired Star Wars turntable.

Robichaud, an Ash faculty affiliate, opened his door for a conversation with the Center about his unique decor.
How would you describe your office?  
There’s a couple of components to this office that I think hit a person when they walk in. One, of course, is the overwhelming number of books that they’re greeted with. The other thing is a small sampling of some of my pop culture obsessions: the Star Wars rug, the Black Panther blanket, the Spider-Man pillows, the high-end collectible statues of my favorite 80s creatures, all the slashers, plus werewolves. Of course, there’s the intersection of some of my ideas of politics and popular culture with a series of presidents made into monsters and [John F.] Kennedy as The Phantom of the Opera.
As a philosopher and ethicist, why is pop culture a part of your work?  
I sometimes joke that philosophy is wasted on philosophers. It’s only half a joke. I love the discipline. I love my colleagues who are professional philosophers writing mostly for professional philosophers. There’s so much good that philosophy can do in the public, at large, but you sort of have to meet them halfway. So, my way of meeting folks halfway is by saying, “These popular cultural things that you love—Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead or Dungeons & Dragons or superheroes—there are some interesting philosophical ideas here.”
You’ve brought pop culture into your classroom teaching and you also host This Week in Dystopia, a podcast about the intersection of politics and pop culture. What inspired you to create the show?  
Even at a school of politics, we can be out of touch with how the public is thinking about politics and what they want. After the 2016 election, we [the Kennedy School] made an all-hands-on-deck effort to reach out and try to find more and interesting ways to take all the intellectual talent that often comes through Harvard and provide it for public consumption.
There’s a growing group of us who are unapologetic about being academics, but are also bringing that academic rigor to bear on Beyoncé, sports, or exercise. The podcast is a space or a forum in which I allow those conversations to happen. Part of it is just to show folks, ‘Look, there actually are some interesting ideas here. Learning doesn’t have to be agonizing.’
Any Easter eggs in the office? Anything hidden that people wouldn’t notice?  
In the corner, there are a bunch of Dungeons & Dragons books; I run a Dungeons & Dragons game out of the Kennedy School. A couple times a month, people—including a Cambridge city councilor—play with me and a bunch of the students.
Also, I have one of the Ben Cooper 1976 King Kong masks. Those are very hard to find in good condition. People usually walk by it are just like, “Why does this guy have a gorilla mask here?” But collectors will immediately stop.