The planner’s subjective destitution: towards a hysterical-analytical triad of planning theoryresearch- practice


  • Ignacio Castillo Ulloa Technische Universität Berlin, Institut für Stadt- und RegionalplanungBerlin, Deutschland



Planning theory, psychoanalytical theory, Lacan, discourse, uncertainty


In this article, I set out different relationships between planning theory, research and practice, drawing on Lacan's "production of four discourses". I argue that each element of the planning theory-research-practice 'triad' acts as the discursive 'agent' and gives rise to particular kinds of 'subject-planner' (the 'master', the 'expert', the 'idealistic' and the 'pragmatic') with specific ideological upshots ('hidden' big other, 'feigned' big other, hysteria and subjective destitution). Primarily a theoretical discussion, the article is also partially underpinned by my own practical experience in planning. While Lacanian psychoanalytical theory has already entered the planning field, its deployment has been mostly centred on deconstructing both planning decision-making processes and the mediation of planners in creating and implementing plans. Hence, the attempt here is to look in more depth at the 'ambivalent' role of the planner as well as to bring in 'planning research', as a key, somewhat occluded, element within the discussion on bridging planning theory and practice. Further, in the literature there seems to be a sort of omnipresent assumption that 'valid' reflection on planning can only come from the 'outside', which in turn perpetuates the role of the academic researcher simply trying to decode and analyse what the practitioner does (or tries to do). Critical impressions from those 'out there', 'on the job', are still missing. They, far from mere anecdotic accounts, ought to comprise self-inflicted criticism triggered by a sense of discomfort with what's being done – by the hysterical question of "why am I a planner?" and "why I am doing this or that?"


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How to Cite

Ulloa IC. The planner’s subjective destitution: towards a hysterical-analytical triad of planning theoryresearch- practice. RuR [Internet]. 2019 Apr. 30 [cited 2024 May 19];77(2):181-98. Available from: