Stellenbosch University
Welcome to Stellenbosch University
Historical wounding and its haunting legacies to be deliberated at international conference
Author: Martin Viljoen
Published: 21/11/2018

​​​What is the appropriate response to the echoes of historical wounding that extend far beyond the generation that experienced the trauma directly? What strategies might quell the haunting repercussions of genocide, slavery, colonial oppression, and mass violence that play out in the lives of affected individuals and groups from both sides of these acts?

These are some of the questions that delegates to an international conference themed Recognition, Reparation, Reconciliation: The Light and Shadow of Historical Trauma will deliberate on. Inspiration for the conference is the 20th anniversary of the report of the TRC.


  • Prof Homi Bhabha, Harvard University, world's premier postcolonial literary theorist (Thu 6 December, 09:00): A Memory of Neighbours: On History and the Afterlife.
  • Prof Cathy Caruth, Cornell University, prominent scholar of Trauma Theory and author of foundational texts in the field (Fri 7 December 08:30): Death and Life at the Site of Address
  • Prof Sarah Nuttal, Director of the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, the preeminent interdisciplinary research institute in the humanities and social sciences in South Africa. (Fri 7 December, 12:00): Dark Light: Coming Out of Trauma​.
  • Judge Albie Sachs, former judge of the South African Constitutional Court and  chief architect of the post-apartheid constitution: (Friday 7 December, 16:45, with Homi Bhabha): Living with the Past: A Conversation
  • Prof Michael Rothberg, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), well-known scholar on trauma, memory and postcolonial theory (Sat 8 December, 08:45): The Implicated Subject: Rethinking Political Responsibility
  • Prof Achille Mbembe, Wits University, public intellectual and major figure in the fields of African history, politics, and social science Sat 8 Dec: 17:00 (lecture open to the public)
  • Tamar Garb, Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies at University College London, her work addresses art and culture in South Africa, feminism, race and global politics: (Sunday 9 December, 09:00): Making Art in the Light and Shadow of Historical Trauma
  • Jacqueline Rose (University of London) and Jessica Benjamin (New York psychoanalyst) are both internationally known for their work on the relationship between psychoanalysis and feminism and their engagement with the politics of Israel-Palestine (Sun 9 December 15:45): What Light Might Psychoanalytic Attention to the Inner Life Throw on the Repetitions of History?
​​The Organiser-in-Chief for the conference is Stellenbosch University (SU) Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Research Chair for Historical Trauma and Transformation.  It is organised in collaboration with the Australian Human Rights Institute at the University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia and the   Institute for Justice and Reconciliation

The conference brings together a group of scholars and practitioners from more than 20 countries and from different disciplinary backgrounds to reflect on the vexed questions of historical wounding and its haunting legacies. An important theme of the conference is the role of the arts in addressing human rights crimes and as a strategy in helping countries to come to terms with their violent histories.

Papers presented at the conference will deal with, among others, the following themes: how George Washington University in Washington DC is addressing its history of owning slaves in the 19th century and selling them to help bolster the university's finances; Canada and Australia's efforts to foster reconciliation between Aboriginal people and whites in these countries; and a discussion on dialogue through the arts between children of perpetrators and children of victims of genocide.

Children and grandchildren of victims—stories from Soviet Russia to South Africa

A unique feature of the conference is an opportunity for conference delegates to listen to stories of experiences of gross human rights violations from victims' families or survivors. At this year's conference the focus will be on encounters between perpetrators and young descendants of victims. Denis Karagodin from Siberia, Russia, will speak about his search for his great grandfather's executioner and meeting the killer's granddaughter.

Young South Africans who were children when their parents were murdered during apartheid will speak about their encounters with perpetrators:
  • Lindiwe Hani will speak about meeting Janusz Walus, the man who assassinated her father, Chris Hani.
  • Candice Mama and Siya Mgoduka, whose fathers were killed in operations in which Eugene de Kock was involved, will reflect on their thoughts on de Kock. Mgoduka will also be in conversation with his mother, Doreen Mgoduka, about her forgiving de Kock.
  • The legacies of conscription into the South African Defence Force during the years of apartheid will also be addressed.
​​Commenting on the significance of the collaboration with the Australian Human Rights Institute, Gobodo-Madikizela said: “The political turbulence and the intergenerational struggles that are playing out in post-apartheid South Africa and the raging debates in Australia about the failure of the Australian Constitution to recognise the rights of Aboriginal Australians, make these two countries important starting points as sites of reflection on the themes of this conference.

“The conference, however, has a transnational and multicultural focus, and will take discussions beyond South Africa and Australia. Discussions will showcase some of the latest research globally on the themes of the conference, and engage in critical reflection on the representation of historical trauma through the creative arts—including film, photography, theatre and visual arts," she adds.​

SU will honour Homi Bhabha with an honorary doctorate at its December 2018 Graduation Ceremony.

The conference ends on Sunday 9 December with an event to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the submission of the report of the TRC and to honour Archbishop Tutu for his work. A music theatre performance by the Rwandan group Mashirika, curated by multiple award winning artist Hope Azeda will perform a piece about healing and reconciliation titled “Africa's Hope."

  • Access the conference website here and the programme here​