“MOURNING IS AS INDIVIDUALIZED AS A FINGERPRINT.”
Vamik Volkan was born an ethnic minority on the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea, a republic plagued by violence between Cypriot Greeks and Cypriot Turks and geographically divided by a United Nations buffer zone since 1964. Professor Volkan is at the forefront of understanding societal conflict through the lens of psychology. He has been nominated 5 times for the Nobel Peace Prize with letters of support from 28 countries.
While training to be a psychiatrist Prof. Volkan's medical school roommate was shot and killed by Greek terrorists on the streets of Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus. This was a pivotal moment and the theme of grief and its complications lies at the heart of his work.
Based on extensive fieldwork in conflict resolution, Prof. Volkan has created a new vocabulary for understanding large group identity and shared emotion. His work is singular in how it illuminates the effects of shared trauma, its transmission across generations, and the important task of collective mourning.
Prof. Volkan’s ideas have shaped today's leading model of CONFLICT RESOLUTION
In newly independent Estonia
In 1987, Professor Volkan founded the Center for the Study of Mind & Human Interaction at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine. CSMHI, the first of its kind, brought an interdisciplinary team of experts to traumatized regions of the globe, to war zones, and refugee camps in effort to replace societal violence with dialogue.
Among the regions where CSMHI worked: the Middle East, Albania, Kuwait, the former Yugoslavia, Turkey, Greece, the United States & the former Soviet Union, particularly the Baltic countries and the Republic of Georgia. Rather than imposing a solution to intergroup conflict the purpose of dialogue was always to help antagonistic parties discover their own unique remedies.
Professor Volkan & President Carter
In the 1980s Professor Volkan was chairman of the American Psychiatric Association’s Committee on Psychiatry and Foreign Affairs, which brought Israelis, Egyptians and Palestinians together for unofficial dialogues. He was also a member of the International Negotiation Network (INN) under the directorship of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, which investigated the roots of ethnic and national conflict in several global regions.
Over the next four decades, Prof. Volkan and his team facilitated dialogue between representatives of enemy groups in countries suffering from war and war-like conditions.
Professor Volkan & Erik Erikson
Professor Volkan is the Senior Erik Erikson scholar at the Erikson Institute of Education & Research at the Austen Riggs Center. Building on Erikson's term "identity," he developed the concept of large-group identity, which he believes is the central factor in international relations.
Prof. Volkan had a significant role in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, which ended most of the violence of The Troubles that had persisted since the 1960s. The GFA or Belfast Agreement was a major step in the Northern Ireland peace process of the 1990s and is the basis of its present system of government.