Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is the South African National Research Chair (SARChI) in Violent Histories and Transgenerational Trauma and the Director of the Centre for the Study of the Afterlife of Violence and the Reparative Quest (AVRe-Quest) at Stellenbosch University. She completed a BA Honours degree at Fort Hare University and a Masters in Clinical Psychology at Rhodes University. She was awarded a PhD at the University of Cape Town for a thesis on legacies of violence based on two case studies: collective violence (a necklace murder), and on the apartheid government’s death squad leader Eugene de Kock. She is internationally recognized for her work in the fields of trauma studies and research on the psychoanalytic interpretation of remorse and forgiveness. She has been one of the pioneers of research processes of remorse and forgiving in the context of gross human rights violations.
Some of Professor Gobodo-Madikizela’s research has been published in leading international journals and her scholarly contributions have been widely recognised. Her select publications include the critically acclaimed A Human Being Died that Night: A Story of Forgiveness, which won the Christopher Award in the United States (2003), and the Alan Paton Prize in South Africa (2004). The book has been published seven times, including translations into four languages, and it has been adapted into a play and performed at major theatres in Cape Town and Johannesburg, New York and London. Among her awards are honorary Doctorates from Rhodes University and from the Friedrich-Schiller University, Jena, the Eleanor Roosevelt Medal, and Distinguished African Scholar at Cornell University’s Mario Einaudi Centre for International Studies. She is a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa, a Fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute, and an Honorary Member of the South African Psychoanalytic Institute. She serves as Research Advisor at Queen’s University, Belfast, a position affiliated with the Senator George Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security, and Justice.
Professor Gobodo-Madikizela’s project is in two phases. For the first phase of the project, she will expand the psychoanalytic perspective of trauma and develop a novel approach to understanding transgenerational transmission of historical trauma. Her starting point is that the traumatic consequences of collective violence do not register only in the mind. The impact also affects other areas of subjectivity, including the body, the culture, and the multi-subjective engagements that ensue in the meaning making of these collective traumatic experiences for survivors and generations that come after. For this phase of the project, she will return to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) archive as a “research site” and engage a fine-grained analysis of a select group of TRC testimonies organised around specific moments of the TRC. A question that will provide structure and guide this process is how might the TRC process and South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy shed light on the problem of violence in contemporary South Africa? The first phase will culminate into a book titled “Tri-Telescopic Memories: Aesthetics of Trauma and Narratives of Repair.” For the second phase of the project, she will build on her earlier work on remorse and forgiveness to develop a new area of research that will explore ways in which performance arts, created from trauma narratives might provide an aesthetic and ethical space of encounter that can foster solidarity and connection to the genealogies of “reparative humanism.” For the second phase of the project, Professor Gobodo-Madikizela will collaborate with practitioners and scholars with expertise in drama and theatre.