Meeting of Experts

on Peace Studies and Dialogue for Peace

photo: © T. Bergler

On the 16 April 2018, a group of peace Studies Experts from 5 countries in Europe met with Prof. Vamik D. Volkan - a psychoanalyst and an experienced "peace-game-player" at the SOS-Children's Villages Hermann-Gmeiner-Academy in Innsbruck, Austria to discuss and exchange expertise on "Trauma, Individual and Large Group Identity Crisis and their role in war and conflict situations.

When it comes to dialogue for peace and peaceful co-existence, Prof. Vamik D. Volkan has good practices to talk about. He has been involved in bringing together influential enemy representatives for unofficial diplomatic dialogues since 1979. He was present when representatives of Arabs and Israelis, Americans and Soviets, Russiands and Estonians, Serbians and Croats, Georgians and South Ossetians, Turks and Greeks, Turks and Armenians came together in years-long dialogue series to understanding each other and finding “entry points” for strategies and actions for peaceful co-existence.

photo: © T. Bergler

At this meeting, he presents his psychoanalytic developmental findings on Child development alongside analytic theoretical models and metaphors on Identity formation, child development, Identification, depositing, targets of externalization and regression.


What engages the participating peace experts the most at this present time?


  • The question of peace ethics in relation to peace and identity
  • In-between spaces and co-existence
  • How different mental and social traits contribute to conflict between nations and states and even in communities
  • Peace between young people and practical experiences on post-traumatic theories
  • Tension between communities and possible entry points for peace negotiations
  • Impact of history and memory on society and possibilities of co-existence
  • How experiences of the past (conflict situations) inform the present (post conflict conditions)
  • Understanding peace studies while talking about war and conflict
  • (….) Interests and obstacles to conflict resolution
  • Collective trauma and its impact on co-existence. Identities as obstacles to peaceful co-existence?
  • The trails of peace from childhood – family – community – nation etc.
  • Perceptions of the other and identity formation
  • Youths and identity; Belonging and trauma
  • Moslem Identity

Vamik poses the question

How does it come about that young people take to doing things they know their childhood morality never would permit them to do? This looks like a clash of childhood morality with ideological identity. Therefore, understanding the psychoanalytical findings and
theories about child development and the impacts of symbols of identity and identification on life in both conflict and peaceful situations are essential to finding viable entry points for peaceful co-existence and happiness. With what he calls “the tree model”, he demonstrates possible entry points and potentials for change in conflict situations.

Using what he terms the "Swiss-Cheese" model, he presents already existing examples of transcending conflict and hopes for a peaceful world and peaceful co-existence.

His conclusion is an admonition that when dealing and working with children, it is important to know the processes, elements and dynamics of their childhood psycho-social development in connection to their large group identity.

More about him


Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, University of Virginia

President Emeritus, International Dialogue Initiative  
Past President: Virginia Psychoanalytic Society, Turkish-American Neuropsychiatric Society,

International Society of Political Psychology and American College of Psychoanalysts

Training and Supervising Analyst Emeritus, Washington Psychoanalytic Institute

Honorary Doctorate degrees from: University of Eastern Finland, Finland; Ankara University,Turkey;

Eastern European Psychoanalytical Institute, Russia, and Profesor Visitante, El Bosgue University, Bogota, Colombia. (Books by Vamik D. Volkan)

This meeting of Experts is organised in collaboration with UNESCO Chair for Peace Studies Institute University of Innsbruck and “Welt der Kinder” in context of the international Symposium “Childhood, Youth and Society” 2018.