Vamık D. Volkan, M.D., DLFAPA, FACPsa.





From the Bosphorus-Straight : Glad to see you here, Dr. Volkan
Turkish Daily News  
Some readers of the Daily News might be forgiven
 if they were surprised by our main headline yesterday,
“Kurdish question on the couch.” Shaped to resemble an actual couch,
this headline was a product of the fertile mind of our design editor Sertaç Bala.
Our intention was not to make light of the most vexing issue on Turkey’s domestic agenda. Quite the contrary. For we welcome the insight of Dr. Vamık Volkan into this complex and ongoing national discussion variously described as the “Kurdish question,” or the “Kurdish initiative.” It is perhaps ironic that Dr. Volkan, a Turk born on the island of Cyprus, is better known internationally than here. A little context is in order.
In the history of psychology, Sigmund Freud is known for founding “psychoanalysis,” really the practice of treatment through dialogue between patient and therapist. A generation later, along came the psychologist Abraham Maslow, best known for his “hierarchy of needs.” Maslow’s great contribution was to shift the paradigm of psychology away from a sole focus on pathology. Maslow fathered the idea that even perfectly healthy people could benefit from the introspection of this particularly science.
And then perhaps two decades ago, Dr. Volkan put another ball into play. This is the notion, once radical but now more conventional, that matters of war and peace cannot be left entirely to economists and social scientists. Formally, he is the founder of the “Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction” at the University of Virginia. But he really is the founder of the concept that wars and their resolution often turn as much on the dynamics of group psychology as they do upon other factors. He has lent that expertise over the years to the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia. In the 1990s, he was at the center of efforts to understand the rise of nationalism in Serbia after the demise of Yugoslavia. The fact that he has produced psychoanalytic studies of both Kemal Atatürk, the founder of Turkey, and convicted terrorist Abdullah Öcalan, founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, is actually a minor part of the résumé he brings to the table.
More important to us is the fact the he brings a missing dimension to the discussion. Yes, the economy of the Southeast is critical. Yes, the politics and ideology that have driven this conflict is central. But concrete study of such aspects of this issue as the experience of social humiliation by citizens of Kurdish ancestry – and methodologies to respond to this – is important. Understanding of the differences in such often-confused concepts as “race” and “ethnicity,” a nuance that almost always escapes “Western journalists,” is something else we would like to see.
Dr. Volkan, welcome to the task of creating a true dialogue on Turkey’s most difficult social challenge.
Copyright © Vamık D. Volkan and Özler Aykan 2007.
All rights reserved.
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Last modified on: Apr 20, 2016