Winner Of Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship 2020

Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela 

Summary of Research 

This project, provisionally titled “Aesthetics of Trauma, Poetics of Repair,” brings together many threads from my  interests as a writer and as a scholar. I will return to the archive of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission  (TRC) as a memorial space of bearing witness to collective pain, and use select testimonies about experiences  of violence presented at TRC public hearings to engage a close (re)examination of the meaning of trauma. 

Given that we are at the future moment that was envisaged 25 years ago when the TRC started its work, I am  interested in the question of what trauma’s transgenerational repercussions at individual and collective levels  mean in the post-apartheid context. At the centre of the study are the questions: how might the TRC moment  of South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy illuminate the complexity of violence in  contemporary South Africa —not just the physical violence but also the violence of racism and of acts of  disregard and dehumanisation of communities at the margins of society? And what visions and imaginaries  might be employed both for the repair of traumas seared in memory and to open up space for restoring  connection to the genealogies of what I call reparative humanism? I will examine some creative works (music  and visual art) that were created to capture the intensely charged moments of the TRC and explore their  capacity as a gateway to the past and as aesthetic and ethical spaces of encounter that can foster the kind of solidarity that inspires concern and action for social justice.

Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela Bio

Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is Professor and Research Chair for Historical Trauma and Transformation, and  the South African National Research Chair (SARChI) in Violent Histories and Transgenerational Trauma in  the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Stellenbosch University. She obtained her BA and Honours degrees from Fort Hare University, her Masters’ degree in Clinical Psychology from Rhodes University, and her PhD  in Psychology from the University of Cape Town. She is internationally recognized for her work in the fields of trauma studies and research on the psychoanalytic interpretation of remorse and forgiveness. She received  a B-rating from the National Research Foundation, and she is a member of the Academy of Science of South  Africa and an honorary member of the South African Psychoanalytic Association.  

Her books include the critically acclaimed A Human Being Died that Night, which won the Christopher Award  in the United States in 2003, and the Alan Paton Prize in South Africa in 2004. The book has been published  seven times, including translations in Dutch, German, Italian and Korean, and was adapted into a play and  performed at major theatres in Cape Town & Johannesburg, New York and London. Her other books are  Dare We Hope: Facing Our Past to Find a New Future, and Narrating our Healing: Perspectives on Healing Trauma, as  co-author with Chris van der Merwe. She has edited and co-edited book volumes including as editor Breaking  Intergenerational Cycles of Repetition: A Global Dialogue on Historical Trauma and Memory, and History, Trauma and  Shame: Engaging the Past through Second Generation Dialogue, and as co-editor Memory, Narrative and Forgiveness:  Perspectives on Unfinished Journeys of the Past, and Post-Conflict Hauntings: Transforming Memories of Historical Trauma. 

Among her honours are: honorary Doctorates from Rhodes University, the Friedrich-Schiller University,  Jena, Germany, and Holy Cross College in Massachusetts. She has been honoured among “100 People who  made a difference”, and her name appears on the Permanent Exhibition of Hall of Heroes in the National  Underground Railroad Freedom Centre, Cincinnati. She was awarded the Eleanor Roosevelt award and the  Social Change Award from Rhodes University. Since 2017, she has been serving as Research Advisor and  Global Scholar at Queen’s University, Belfast, affiliated with the Senator George Mitchell Institute for Global  Peace, Security and Justice.  

Her past research fellowships include: at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Carr Centre  for Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School, Harvard University, the Claude Ake Visiting Chair in Peace  and Conflict Research, Uppsala University in Sweden, and Distinguished African Scholar at Cornell  University’s Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies. 

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