International Seminar on Memory, Trauma and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding
4th April 2014
Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace,
The aim of this seminar entitled ‘Memory, Trauma and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding’ was to explore the healing of traumatic memories in post-conflict recovery, reconstruction and peacebuilding. Our invited key speaker, Professor Vamik Volkan, drew on his nearly 40 years’ experiences in the field of international relations and peace-related diplomacy and investigate the inextricable links between large group identity, conflict and dehumanisation of the other. Vamik analysed the formation large group identities, the shared traumas of mass violence and the societal/political consequences of such atrocities. He also examined the need to interrupt the trans-generational transmissions of trauma by healing past memories, as well as the imperative to develop psychoanalytically informed diplomatic strategies for dealing with associated peacebuilding challenges.
For discussion, we critically engaged with these topics, and examined how to remove the ‘sting’ in individuals’ memories of trauma so that they no longer serve as an impetus for continued violence.
Here are some of the questions that the seminar set out to explore:
(1) What are the effective approaches to enable individuals and groups to break away from the hold of traumatic memories?
(2) What kind of structural processes must be in place in order to engage in healing of memories?
(3) How can individuals have healthier conceptions of their group identities that do not involve making potential enemies of the other?
Professor Vamik Volkan is an emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia School of Medicine; an emeritus training and supervising psychoanalyst at the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute; and the Senior Erik Erikson Scholar at the Erikson Institute for Education and Research of the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Amongst his many posts, Vamik also headed an interdisciplinary team and conducted years-long unofficial diplomatic dialogues between Arabs and Israelis, Americans and Soviets, Russians and Estonians, Croats and Bosnian Muslims, Georgians and South Ossetians, Turks and Greeks and studied post-revolution or post-war societies such as Albania after the dictator Enver Hodxa was gone and Kuwait after the Iraqi invasion was over. After September 11, 2001 he was a member of the International Psychoanalytic Association’s (IPA’s) Terror and Terrorism Study Group.
The Seminar’s discussant was Professor Nigel Young who has been active in transnational peace activity for at least a half century. He is presently Editor-in-Chief of the ‘Oxford International Encyclopedia of World Peace’ (a four-volume reference work). He is active in the Balkans Peace Park Project, UK (B3P). He has authored numerous publications including six books (two co-authored), and edited or co-edited others. A co-founder of the first Peace Studies department in Britain (Bradford, 1973/4), he was also the first endowed Peace Studies Chair-holder in the USA. As Professor of Peace Studies he was director of one of the earliest university Peace Studies Programs in North America (Colgate University, New York 1984-2004) where he retains the title of Research Professor. Professor Young has held academic positions in sociology, politics and peace studies, at over a dozen universities and colleges worldwide, and was a Senior Peace Research fellow in Oslo, Norway (1981-84). He is currently working on books on Historical Memory as related to peace, and the community basis of resistance. In 20l2 he received the Dayton Peace Prize for outstanding scholarly achievement.
Seminar attendee Biographies
Prof Volkan is Founder of the International Dialogue Initiative (IDI) which aims to facilitate dialogue between representatives from various large groups, states and cultures for the purpose of learning about differences in perspective and finding peaceful solutions to inter-group relationship problems.