City and Psyche: A Psychoanalytic Exploration of Architecture and Subjectivity

Lecture by Ricardo Ainslie

Thursday, June 30, 2022 at 19 h


Library of Psychoanalysis at the Sigmund Freud Museum

Berggasse 19, 1090 Vienna


Registration required: To participate on-site, please register below.

Now let us, by a flight of imagination, suppose that Rome is not a human habitation but a psychical entity ...

(Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, 1930)

"Freud’s intent in writing these lines was to evoke the layered archeology of Rome as a metaphor for the mind, but after a few pages of deliberation he set the metaphor aside as inadequate to the task. Perhaps it was. However, the line gestures toward a powerful idea: that cities are, indeed, psychological spaces that we experience and “use” in complex ways. This is the idea to be entertained in this lecture: how cities, and in particular architecture and the physical, material environment that surrounds us, shape our subjective experience both individually and collectively.

I have explored cities like an ethnographer. I have interviewed architects about their work and the vision that guides it. I have observed but also studied the impact of social transformation on communities as well as the impact of great historical events that have come to form part of the collective identity of cities like Vienna, Mexico City, and Austin, Texas; events that have shaped life within those cities in ways that are both conscious and unconscious. In this lecture I use psychoanalytic ideas to inform our understanding of cities as “psychical entities,” although I also draw from studies in urban design, marketing, and even neuroscience, to bolster the thesis that we are unequivocally shaped by the environments that we inhabit, albeit often in ways that lie beyond our conscious awareness." (Ricardo Ainslie)


Ricardo Ainslie, author, psychoanalyst, documentary filmmaker and 2022 Fulbright-Freud Visiting Lecturer, holds the M.K. Hage Centennial Professorship in Education at the University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Educational Psychology. He serves as director of research and education for AMPATH Mexico at Dell Medical School, and is director of the LLILAS Benson Mexico Center at the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to publishing regularly in academic journals, his books include The Fight to Save Juárez: Life in the Heart of Mexico’s Drug War (University of Texas Press, 2013), and Long Dark Road: The Story of Bill King and Murder in Jasper, Texas (University of Texas Press, 2004).

Learn more about our Fulbright-Freud Visiting Lecturer in our blog "Meet Ricardo Ainslie".


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