Five-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Vamik Volkan was born on the ethnically divided island of Cyprus in 1932. When he was a medical student in Ankara, his roommate was shot and killed by Greek terrorists in Cyprus and this event had a lasting impact on his work and interest in ethnic conflict and large-group mourning. Dr. Volkan has worked 40 years bringing enemy groups together for dialogue in traumatized areas of the world.
As founder and director of The Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction (CSMHI, 1987-2002) at the School of Medicine, the University of Virginia, he studied the political and historical issues that feed social conflicts as well as their psychological underpinnings. This Center, the first of its kind, brought interdisciplinary teams of experts to traumatized regions in the Middle East, the Soviet Union, the Baltic Republics, The Republic of Georgia, Albania, Kuwait, the former Yugoslavia, Turkey, Greece, and the United States.
"When I go to a conflicted area I need to know what’s going on, not only by reading newspapers or talking to leaders or taxi drivers, or children. You need to know what else there is in this society because there are societal processes that are shared and are specific to that group." (filmmaker's interview with Dr. Volkan)
Dr. Volkan talks to children in newly independent Estonia (1994-96).
Dr. Volkan is the Senior Erik Erikson Scholar at the Erikson Institute of Education and Research at the Austen Riggs Center, Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Building on Erikson's term "identity," Dr. Volkan has developed the concept of "large-group identity," which has been intrinsic to his work in international relations. Above Vamik with Erik Erikson on Erikson's 80th birthday (1982), Big Sur, California.
Mourning is as individualized as a fingerprint.
~ Vamik Volkan