In this talk, Ankhi Mukherjee will discuss the genesis of the idea animating Unseen City, an experimental and interdisciplinary work drawing on her collaboration with public sector mental health trusts and hospitals, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, and social workers in six global cities. Starting with Sigmund Freud’s Budapest speech on free clinics in 1918, which ushered an international mental health cooperative movement, she looks at the afterlife of this idealist moment in initiatives worldwide that offer psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy in the community. She will also discuss the use of literary and cultural texts in the book, arguing that a humanistic and imaginative engagement with the psychic lives of the dispossessed is key to an adapted psychoanalysis for the poor.
Ankhi Mukherjee is Professor of English and World Literatures at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Wadham College. Her most recent book, Unseen City: The Psychic Lives of the Urban Poor (2021), has won Columbia University’s Robert S. Liebert Award for “outstanding scholarship in the field of applied psychoanalysis.” Mukherjee’s second monograph, What Is a Classic? Postcolonial Rewriting and Invention of the Canon (2014), was awarded the British Academy Prize in English Literature. Her other publications include Aesthetic Hysteria: The Great Neurosis in Victorian Melodrama and Contemporary Fiction (2007), and the collections of essays she has edited, namely A Concise Companion to Psychoanalysis, Literature, and Culture (with Laura Marcus, 2015) and After Lacan (2018). Mukherjee has published in peer-reviewed journals including PMLA, Contemporary Literature, MLQ, Parallax, and the Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, and sits on the editorial boards of several international journals. She has been a postdoctoral research fellow of the British Academy (2003-2006), a visiting fellow at the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University (2015), and the John Hinkley (Visiting) Professor at Johns Hopkins University (2019). She was faculty at Harvard University’s Institute of World Literature (IWL) in summer 2023. At present, Mukherjee is writing A Very Short Introduction to Postcolonial Literature in the widely circulated VSI series (2023). A volume she has co-edited with Ato Quayson, titled Decolonizing the English Literary Curriculum will be published later this year.