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White Society Colloquium: Prejudice: Benign and Malignant

Date: Nov 18, 2016 7:30 pm
Speaker: Vamik Volkan, MD, DLFAPA, FACPsa
Discussant:  Marcelo Rubin, PhD



This talk will review psychoanalytic explanation for why individuals have prejudice and how societal prejudice evolves. The focus will not be on pairs of individualized sameness and difference such as black and white, female and male, gay and straight, rich and poor, but rather on us and them. Situations when tens, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people share the same or similar prejudice against another large group will be examined. This kind of large-group prejudice can be benign, hostile, or malignant. Human history illustrates the repeated appearance of ethnic hatred, racism, neo-racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, fascism, anti-Westernization, as well as ethnocentrism, and national or religious or ideological exceptionalism. These all refer to differentiating between large-group identities and the wish to protect one’s large-group identity from the Other’s identity. Change in the 21st Century is occurring at an unprecedented pace and scale. The idea of having an ethnically pure national identity or being a synthetic country composed of only selected people from selected locations is an illusion in our present-day world. Globalization, incredible advances in communication technology, fast travel, recourse limitations, and terrorist activities and now the refugee crisis in Europe make psychoanalytic investigation of the Other a major necessity.



Vamık Volkan, M.D., DFLAPA, FACPsa is an Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia and an Emeritus Training and Supervising Analyst at the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute, Washington, DC.  

In 1987, Dr. Volkan established the Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction (CSMHI) at the School of Medicine, University of Virginia.  The CSMHI's faculty included experts in psychoanalysis, psychiatry, psychology, diplomacy, history, political science, and environmental policy.  CSMHI members worked in the Baltic Republics, Kuwait, Albania, former Yugoslavia, Georgia, South Ossetia, Turkey, Greece, and elsewhere.  He was a member of the International Negotiation Network (INN) under the directorship of the former President Jimmy Carter (1989-2000) and holds Honorary Doctorate degrees from Kuopio University, Finland (now called the University of Eastern Finland), Ankara University, Turkey, and the Eastern European Psychoanalytic Institute, Russia.

Dr. Volkan is a former President of the Turkish-American Neuropsychiatric Society, the International Society of Political Psychology, and the Virginia Psychoanalytic Society.

Currently Dr. Volkan is the president emeritus of the International Dialogue Initiative (IDI) which he established in 2007.The IDI members are unofficial representatives from Iran, Israel, Germany, Russia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the West Bank. They meet twice a year to examine world affairs primarily from a psycho-political point of view.


Volkan, V. D. (2013). Enemies on the Couch: A Psychopolitical Journey Through War and Peace. Durham, NC: Pitchstone Publishing.
Volkan, V. D. (2014). Animal Killer: Transmission of War Trauma from One Generation to the Next. London: Karnac.
Volkan, V. D. (2014). Psychoanalysis, International Relations, and Diplomacy: A Sourcebook on Large-Group Psychology. London: Karnac.
Volkan, V. D.  (2015). A Nazi Legacy: A Study of Depositing, Transgenerational Transmission, Dissociation and Remembering Through Action. (Foreword by Emily Kuriloff). London: Karnac.

Marcelo Rubin, Ph.D. is a Fellow, Training and Supervising Analyst, and Faculty in the Adult Psychoanalytic Program at the William Alanson White Institute. He is the former Director of the White Institute's Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Training Program, and is currently that program's Director of Distance Learning.  Dr. Rubin has published and presented numerous articles on adolescence, trauma, and culture.  He is in private practice in New York City and Westchester, NY.



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