• 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: Empathy study

Empathy in Victim-Perpetrator Dialogue Encounters in the Aftermath of Mass Violence and Genocide

Project Description

This project integrates the study of two cases by examining the different components of empathy and exploring its development in the context of dialogue between members of groups from different sides of political conflict and genocide. The study will illuminate the phenomenon of empathy and map out its development in the dialogue between victims and perpetrators in South Africa, and between second-generation descendant survivors and perpetrators in Germany. The project aims to identify the external and internal (intra-psychic) factors that contribute to the development of empathy, and to elucidate, from a psychoanalytic perspective, the factors that allow empathy to develop in a manner that fosters relationships of trust. In this way then, our research will take the concept of empathy out of its traditional exclusively individualistic context and develop a theory of relational empathy in public life.

The study is based on the evaluation of two cases that the principal researcher is familiar with through workshops she has given in the past. The first case is the dialogue encounter between a black collaborator with police of the former apartheid state and the mothers of young anti-apartheid activists who were lured to their death by the police collaborator. The second is an on-going Jewish-German dialogue process of members of PAKH for more than ten years; the PAKH group consists of adult children of Holocaust survivors and descendants of Nazi perpetrators.  Click here to view a previous meeting with PAKH. This project will advance a general theoretical argument – and the strength of our argument is drawn from our own observations and direct experiences (in the case of Prof Pumla Goboda-Madikazela, her work on the South African TRC, and in the case of members of PAKH, their own ongoing dialogue) – that empathy is not just what one person 'does' to another. Empathy occurs within a context where individuals from opposite sides of history and the groups they represent are engaged in an act of interpreting the presence of the other in all its forms – conscious, unconscious, and emotional.

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