BLOOD LINES by Vamik Volkan


From Ethnic Pride to Ethnic Terrorism
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 A psychiatrist with a specialty in international relations provides a timely and insightful investigation into group identity and ethnic violence. As a native Turkish Cypriot, Volkan (Life After Loss, 1993) brings a personal as well as professional understanding to the question of ``why, beyond their individualized motivations, people kill for the sake of protecting and maintaining their large-group identities.'' Although geared toward diplomats and academics, this study is readily accessible to the lay reader. The bulk of it is comprised of analyses of specific ethnic struggles in Europe and the Middle East--between Egyptians and Israelis, Bosnian Serbs and Muslims, Turks and Greeks on Cyprus--as well as of the newly independent or democratized countries of Latvia, Estonia, and Romania. Interspersed throughout these chapters are sections that provide the terminology and theoretical foundations for Volkan's thought-provoking analyses of specific situations. He introduces several useful concepts for understanding the formation of large-group identities and what motivates such groups to exaggerate their ethnocentrism: ethnic tent (Volkan's metaphor to illustrate large-group psychology); we-ness (a shared reservoir of ethnic identifiers that define a group); chosen glory (a historical event that induces feelings of triumph and thus bolsters a group's self-esteem); chosen trauma (the collective memory of a past calamity that remains dormant but may later be reactivated and distort perceptions); time-collapse (in which the feelings and fantasies about a past shared trauma are projected onto the current situation); psychological DNA of a group (as kept alive by literature, art, song, e.g., the Battle of Kosovo is psychological DNA among Serbs). Volkan is an astute observer of both the small detail and the broader canvas of human behavior. An urgent study of what transforms ethnic pride into violence against others.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-374-11449-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1997