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The invisible luggage of the displaced: emotions, trauma and public diplomacy


All displaced people, be it refugees, migrants, or expatriates, experience a sense of loss and trauma. Ukrainians crossing the border to take refuge across Europe carry with them this emotional luggage that shapes their identity and influences their integration in their new host places. Yet, the consequences of this invisible luggage have been rarely scrutinized in depth in public diplomacy and even in diaspora diplomacy scholarship. I draw on the psychoanalytical work of Vamik Volkan to shed some light on the psychology of Ukrainian refugees and the reactions of Romanians as host population. I argue a greater engagement with studies of emotions in international relations and political psychology could shape a research agenda that addresses the role of emotions and trauma in a world shaken by many crises.

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  2. Political psychology is an interdisciplinary field of study that looks at psychological processes applied to politics and includes cognitive approaches, behavioural approaches, psychosocial/ psychoanalytical perspectives, evolutionary psychology and neuropsychology.

  3. Vamik Volkan has written extensively on what psychoanalytical concepts can bring to the field of diplomacy, especially in ethnic group conflicts, ethnic terrorism, unofficial diplomatic dialogue and negotiations, emphasizing the value of psychoanalytically informed diplomatic strategies to reduce ethnic tension. His work is part of psychosocial studies on emotions that bring to the fore the inner world of individuals (their emotional and unconscious experiences) connected with external political, social and cultural contexts.

  4. Minder, R. and Erling. B. August 14, 2022. Poland’s army of volunteers flags as Ukraine ‘refugee fatigue’ sets in. Financial Times.

  5. This section offers a brief snapshot and collage of tropes that emerged in Romania to illustrate some of the hosts’ reactions. These discourses should be studied further in a more systematic way.



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Correspondence to Alina Dolea.

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Dolea, A. The invisible luggage of the displaced: emotions, trauma and public diplomacy. Place Brand Public Dipl (2022).

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  • Emotions
  • Trauma
  • Diaspora diplomacy
  • Russia–Ukraine war
  • Ukraine
  • Romania
  • Refugees
  • Migrants