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Large-Group Psychology: Racism, Societal Divisions, Narcissistic Leaders, and Who We Are Now

A new and updated exploration of large-group psychology from world-renowned psychoanalyst Dr Vamik D. Volkan. This timely book investigates the underlying psychology of the societal divisions occurring in the world and includes the author’s personal observations and experiences of racism as a ‘voluntary immigrant’ to the US over six decades ago. Large-Group Psychology: Racism, Societal Divisions, Narcissistic Leaders and Who We Are Now is an immensely readable book, written in a beautifully clear and jargon-free prose.

Large-Group-Psychology_Racism-Societal-Divisions-Narcissistic-Leaders_and-Who-We-Are-Now

This is a must-read and provides illuminating ideas in terms of how we might understand the significance of healing the wounds of collective historical trauma such as trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery.

Desk Review Report: Mapping Approaches to Healing the Wounds of Slavery

Supported by the UNESCO Slave Route Project, the GHFP has completed a Desk Review aimed at mapping meaningful approaches to healing the wounds of slavery.

The Desk Review draws on a conception of healing wounds that perceives the wound of trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery as systematic dehumanisation. This in turn highlights the imperative of healing as addressing dehumanisation through four processes:

  • Process One is directed at dehumanising acts per se;
  • Process Two is directed at the traumatic effects of being dehumanised;
  • Process Three is directed at the dehumanising relationships; and
  • Process Four is directed at the structural conditions that enable and have enabled institutionalised dehumanisation.

In reviewing the relevant literature and case studies, the Desk Review has mapped out some of the key practical approaches to healing. Understanding the significance of collective healing and taking practical steps towards healing are amongst the most powerful ways to eradicate racism.

Remembering the unremembered: A Key to Healing

In her review of Toni Morrison‘s book “Beloved”, Dr Scherto Gill suggests that one of the book’s features be that it allows us to remember the unremembered, and reminds us of the need to face the oppressed collective memories of slavery.  Without embracing these memories, the unremembered continues to hold our societies, and we live simultaneously in the present and in the past.

Dr Gill says:

Clearly, the unremembered is never forgotten, and they wear different guises today in racism, poverty, and violence, the three evils of structural oppression identified by Martin Luther King Jr.

That unremembered demands to be remembered, is because memories can imprison but also liberate. By remembering, the formerly enslaved can re-acquaint with their bodies once so violated by brutality and torture, and can return to their community, a community from which they once ran away, because it identity was associated with commodity and utility.

Dr King calls this new place of belonging our Beloved Community, built on dignity, mutual respect, and compassion. For Morrison, this Beloved Community must start with listening to unremembered past … because she knew only too well, it is in the remembered that lies seed of forgiveness, redemption, and healing.

2nd Int’l Symposium: Collective Healing of Traumas: New Possibilities for Peace in Communities Sept 2019

Collective and community initiatives can empower those suffering from the wounds of a violent past to collaborate towards mutual healing, thus creating new possibilities for peace. To better understand the significance of these community-rooted collective healing endeavours, the GHFP and the UNESCO Slave Route Project hosted a one-day International Symposium, at the Royal Society for the Arts in London. The event brought together practitioners and scholars who have experiences and expertise in the field of communal and collective healing of mass traumas, for an intimate dialogue focused around three core questions:
  1. What are the typical psychological and social symptoms encountered in communities resulting from the experience and legacies of past atrocities?
  2. What might constitute collective healing in these situations? 
  3. How do community-based processes and practices contribute to collective healing? (And how would the community evaluate collective healing? What are the relevant indicators that some healing has taken place?)
Presentations included the Australia’s journey of healing through the Sorry Day marches, the Healing the Wounds of History programme in Lebanon, Foresee Research Group’s restorative healing approaches in Hungary, critical reflection on the structural conditions of healing from the perspectives of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation, the Initiatives of Change International’s Trustbuilding in the communities programme, and the Peace Charter of Forgiveness and Reconciliation.    Read here the Collective_Healing_of_Trauma_Concept_Note.  Please return soon for updates on the Symposium’s participants, their bios, and presentations, and conclusions.

Overcoming structural racism requires more of people, but also healing

Louis Menand writes in New Yorker February 4th 2019 issue:

“institutional racism” or “structural racism”—is much harder to address. It requires more of people than just striking down a law.

Read the full article entitled: “The Supreme Court Case That Enshrined White Supremacy in Law How Plessy v. Ferguson shaped the history of racial discrimination in America.”

UNGA: Commemorating the abolition of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade

General Assembly 73rd Session: 38th Plenary Meeting, 21 Nov 2018
Commemoration of the abolition of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. Speakers Call for Greater Awareness‑Raising about Dangers of Racism, Prejudice, as General Assembly Reviews Education Programme on Transatlantic Slave Trade – Agenda Item 121.

http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/watch/general-assembly-73rd-session-38th-plenary-meeting/5970052087001/?term=

UNESCO Healing the Wounds of Slavery Symposium: Questions discussed

On October 18th and 19th, twenty-eight renowned caring and inspirational experts from multi-disciplinary backgrounds met at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for days of deep sharing, exchange and dialogue around the topic of “Healing the Wounds of Slavery”. The symposium included four observers.

At the Opening Session, Prof Thomas Banchoff, Georgetown’s Vice President for Global Engagement, welcomed the international experts to the Berkley Center where he previously served as the founding director. Prof Banchoff shared Georgetown’s recognition of this important UNESCO initiative, and expressed his good will for the outcome of the Symposium.

The participants and contributors discussed the following questions:

  1. What are the historical contexts, foundations and underpinnings of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery?
  2. What lessons can we learn from these and other dehumanizing tragedies in world history?
  3. What are the latest research findings on the psycho-social consequences of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery?
  4. How do the different approaches, experiences and processes contribute to the healing the wounds left by such historical traumas?
  5. What would be the necessary approaches to healing the wounds of transatlantic slave trade and slavery?
  6. What would be the appropriate strategies to communicate and inform the public for a better understanding of the challenges to the overcoming of these legacies?
  7. Who are the key stakeholders and partners to associate with the healing
    processes and dialogues?

At the concluding session of the Symposium, a number of proposals were made and the group are working to identify strategic steps forward.

Symposium event photography is now available to share, thank you.

Trauma of slavery and epigenetics

Epigenetics is the study of biological mechanisms that can switch genes on and off.  Recent epigenetic studies have shown that stress, socio-economic deprivation, racism and other traumatic experiences of our ancestors can play a part in turning on or off certain genes in our DNA. That is to say, for instance, the trauma of slavery can be passed on transgenerationally.  See an example in the work by Professor Ariane Giacobino.

Several of the forthcoming UNESCO Symposium contributors have argued for the importance of healing the trauma of slavery, such as in the work of Professor Joy DeGruy, who maintains that the systematic dehumanising effects of slavery have continued to impact many African American people’s experiences in the world.  Equally, Professor Aimé Charles-Nicolas has called for systematic healing of transgenerationally transmitted traumas inherited directly from slavery or passed down through racism rooted in slavery.  Such an imperative has been reinstated in the International Scientific Colloquium on “Slavery: what is its impact on the the psychology of populations?” in Martinique and Guadeloupe on October 2016.

Professor Benjamin Bowser and others also urge our societies to pay more attention to how education might continue to perpetuate such trauma, and likewise, new approaches to teaching and learning about trans-Atlantic slave trade and slave history may contribute to healing and cultural transformation.

Traces of the Trade

TRACES OF THE TRADE: A STORY FROM THE DEEP NORTH

In this Emmy-nominated documentary, filmmaker Katrina Browne discovers that her Rhode Island forefathers were the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history.  She and nine relatives decide to retrace the Triangle Trade: from a port town in Rhode Island, to slave forts in Ghana, to the ruins of one of their family’s sugar plantations in Cuba.  Step by step they uncover the vast extent of Northern complicity in slavery, and thus come to see that slavery built the nation, not just the South.  They meet with people of African descent abroad and at home and grapple with questions of white privilege, healing and repair in the present day.

While still in rough-cut form, the film contributed to the Episcopal Church’s 2006 decision to issue an apology for its role in slavery and embark upon research, repentance, dialogue and repair processes in dioceses around the country that are still on-going.

Traces of the Trade premiered in 2008 at the Sundance Film Festival, and then aired nationally on PBS.  The film has contributed significantly to the growing public awareness in the last 10-15 years about the role of the North in slavery.  It has also been broadcast in Canada, Cuba and Bermuda, and has screened in numerous European, Caribbean and African countries.  Family member Tom DeWolf published a book about the family journey: Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts Its Legacy as the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty in U.S. History.

The film is used extensively in schools, universities, museums, religious denominations, workplaces and professional conferences for education and heart-felt dialogue.  A nonprofit was formed out of the film, The Tracing Center on Histories and Legacies of Slavery.  It helps museums and historic sites improve how they interpret slavery for the public (including via a published collection of essays) and on helping teachers improve how they teach slavery.  Another ripple has been the formation of the Center for Reconciliation out of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island.

Ms. Browne specializes in bringing attention to “racialized emotions” and particularly the psychological legacies of slavery for white Americans and how those hinder restorative justice.  She contributed a book chapter on how these legacies manifest in the classroom to: The Transatlantic Slave Trade and Slavery: New Directions in Teaching and Learning.  She is currently developing a multi-session film-based race dialogue series curriculum for the Episcopal Church and other interested denominations.