• Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation Studies
    Inaugural Presentation of Vice-Chancellor's Lecture Series: "Sites of Trauma, Sites of Conscience"

    Attentive Audience - "An opportunity for dialogue with public, including young thinkers with intruguing ideas and insight on issues related to historical trauma and memory"

  • Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation Studies
    Department of Peace Studies Research; Uppsala University
    Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela presenting a lecture with Emeritus Professor Irvin Staub, Peace and Conflict Studies Research Department, Uppsala University.
  • Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation Studies
    Vice-Chancellor's Lecture Series: "Narrating Rape during the South African War" by Emeritus Prof Ant
    Profs Lucius Botes, Helene Strauss, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Antjie Krog and Dr Buhle Zuma at Prof Krog's Lecture.
  • Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation Studies
    Postgraduate students 2015
    Doctoral and Master's students during a postgraduate students' research workshop with Prof Engela Pretorius as guest of honour.
  • Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation Studies
    Empathic responses to video clips from the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission

    Melike Fourie, Post-doctoral Fellow leading brain imaging in our multidisciplinary research on empathy. 

  • Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation Studies
    "Forgiveness, Law and Justice, Third Annual Reconciliation Lecture 2014"

    "What is Forgiveness? What is it? Why consider it? Should it be encouraged? By law, by leaders?” - Professor Martha Minow

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Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation Studies: Dialogue and Narratives of Transformation

Transcending Trauma and the Moral Imagination: Narratives of Change, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation

Principal Investigator:

Research Partners:

Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela
Reville Nussey (Postdoctoral Fellow)
Jeffrey Prager (Psychoanalyst and Professor of Sociology, UCLA)
Damascene Gasanabo (Executive
Director of Research, CLNG, Rwanda

Members of PAKH, (Cologne and Dusseldorf, Germany).
Click here to learn more about our work with PAKH 
(Link to the PAKH website).

There is an inherent risk in humanising our former enemies, those we grudge for having inflicted, or supported the infliction of trauma upon us. The exercise of moving from relationships defined by fear and divisions drawn from the past, 'us and them', to those characterised by mutual respect and compassion for fellow human beings, is slower and more demanding than vengeful anger and hatred. It requires work. Yet, when we step into the terrain of dialogue with those we consider our enemies, where each side will listen to the other’s pain, hopes, and fears, we embrace the moral imagination. We are rising above what so often comes naturally – hate – and venturing into the terrain of social and institutional transformation.

The objective of the study is two-fold. Firstly, it seeks to examine how change comes about, and how transformation emerges in the context of dialogue or other similar process in encounters between former enemies. Secondly, we are interested in a more social and relational account of these encounters as a fulcrum for explaining the human action that unfolds when victims and family members of victims encounter perpetrators after wars and genocide have ended. Ultimately, the study will open up new avenues of inquiry and provide a basis for comparative analysis of the successful strategies that have helped to interrupt the cycles of hatred and violence that so often repeat themselves in the aftermath of political violence and trauma.

The data for our work will be collected from different research sites, including victim-perpetrator dialogue groups in Rwanda, acts of apology and forgiveness between families of victims and perpetrators of gross human rights abuses in South Africa, transformation at residences at the University of the Free State, and post-Holocaust dialogue between children of Holocaust survivors and descendants of Nazi perpetrators. The aim is not to try to equate the experiences of the different groups that will be studied at these various research sites. We want to explore how insights from the different research contexts can be developed conceptually with the objective of applying these theoretical insights to the understanding of the subtleties of dialogue between victims and perpetrators, or between former enemies.

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