Historical Trauma and Transformation
Welcome to Stellenbosch University


Transgenerational Trauma and Transformation


The seminar's theme this year is Legacies of Violence, Social Change and Transformation. The seminar explores the interplay of traumatic histories, civic life, social justice and the arts. Invited speakers in the series are drawn from an interdisciplinary, South African and international group of scholars .

Reconfiguring  the Legacies of  Racialized Trauma.

Professor Maurice Apprey, Department of Psychiatry and Dean of African-American Affairs, University of Virginia, USA. 

Time: 12h00 - 13h15

Venue: STIAS Wallenberg Centre 10 Marais Road – Stellenbosch. Auditorium 1 (New Venue).



Urgent and [not “but"] paradoxically, voluntary errands bind us to our compatriots, or foes, past and present. Binding errands of history, transformed into conscious or unconscious contracts haunt us. These contracts are delegated and redelegated into endless and circular chains of continuity. Upon the consolidation and ossification of these contracts we arrive at an aporia, a dead end.

A new ethic of responsibility is required of us. It starts with coming to grips with history and its unmetabolised sedimentations, a new consciousness of unproductive transformations of history, and a creative reconfiguration of ancestral wishes, demands and missions.

Enter the treaties of Westphalia to introduce the idea of sovereignty and the Berlin Conference to introduce the idea of colonization without sovereignty of the indigenous people. Continue with entrenchment, struggles for freedom and unproductive public policy initiatives. Then begin the processes of individual and group transformation so that we can upend our toxic legacies.

The writer James Baldwin provides us with poetic renditions of history, the intertwining between transgressors and transgressed that end in an impasse. This we must do so that we may see clearly.

Let us, finally, begin to come to grips, through dialogue and intentional design, with painful history, episodes of gratuitous hatred, painful love, and unproductive circular efforts to change our destiny and begin the process of creating new possibilities for authentic and transformative interventions.

 acrobat-flatsmall.pngEvents Poster (Click here link to download)


Social Neuroscience and Intergroup Relations


How the Brain Can Change the Mind: A Neuroscience Based Approach to Prejudice Reduction.

Dr Emile Bruneau, Director of the Peace and Conflict Neuroscience Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, USA. 

Time: 12h15 - 13h30

Venue: Perold Building on the Rooi Plein, 1st Floor, Room 1018


Dr. Emile Bruneau

Dr. Emile Bruneau is director of the Peace and Conflict Neuroscience Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, and lead scientist of the Beyond Conflict Innovations Lab. Prior to his formal training in neuroscience, Dr. Bruneau worked, traveled and lived in a number of conflict regions, including South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Ireland. Dr. Bruneau is now working to bring the tools of science to bear on the problem of intergroup conflict by (1) building methods to assess the ways in which we demean, dehumanize and withhold empathy from ‘the other’, and (2) creating and critically evaluating interventions aimed at transcending these biases. His lecture will be based on critical insights gained from this programme of research. 

 acrobat-flatsmall.pngEvents Poster (Click here link to download)

Dr Melike Fourie, Senior Researcher, Historical Trauma and Transformation. Stellenbosch University. 

Walking in Another's Shoes: Empathy and perspective taking in second generation South African Students.

Time: 14h15 - 14h45

Venue: Perold Building on the Rooi Plein, 1st Floor, Room 1018


Alea Skwara, Doctoral Fellow Researcher, Historical Trauma and Transformation. Stellenbosch University. 

From the Self to the Social: Contemplative Practice as a Path to Compassion.

Time: 14h45 - 15h15

Venue: Perold Building on the Rooi Plein, 1st Floor, Room 1018

MAY 10

Dr Samantha van Schalkwyk, Senior Researcher, Historical Trauma and Transformation. Stellenbosch University. 

Disrupting Patriarchy: Transformative Dialogues on Gender Violence

Time: 12h00-13h15

Venue: Perold Building on the Rooi Plein, 1st Floor, Room 1018


Adebayo Sakiru, Doctoral fellow in the Department of African Literature, University of the Witwatersrand.

The Inheritance of Loss: Half of a Yellow Sun as a Postmemorial Narrative'

Time: 14h15-15h00

Venue: Perold Building on the Rooi Plein, 1st Floor, Room 1018


Dialogue on Race and Citizenship


Policing the Black Man: Conversation about Race in the United States.

Professor Angela J, Davis, Law Faculty, Washington College of Law, American University. 

Time: 12h15 - 13h30

Venue: Stellenbosch University Library, JS Gericke Library Auditorium


 acrobat-flatsmall.pngSeminar Brochure (Click on the link to download the seminar brochure)


Professor Christi van der Westhuizen, Department of Sociology, University of Pretoria

Rethinking Intersectionality: Race, Gender and White Afrikaans Women

At the Perold Building, Rooi Plein

Speaker: Christi van der Westhuizen

Date:   Wednesday 7 March, 2018

Time:   12:15 p.m. to 13:30 p.m.

Venue:  Room 1018                                                                                        

First Floor Perold Building on the Rooi Plein


acrobat-flatsmall.png Seminar Brochure  (Click on the link to download the seminar brochure)


Professor Melissa Steyn, Director, Wits Centre for Diversity Studies, Wits University

Whiteness and Ignorance in Contemporary South Africa

At the Perold Building, Rooi Plein
Speaker: Melissa Steyn
Date:   Wednesday 14 March, 2018
Time:   12:15 p.m. to 13:30 p.m.
Venue:  Room 1018, First Floor Perold Building on the Rooi Plein

MELISSA 3.jpg acrobat-flatsmall.pngSeminar Brochure  (Click on the link to download the seminar brochure)


Research Meetings/ Event

Professor Homi Bhabha visit 15-16 August 2017.

In August we co-hosted (with Indexing Transformation and the NIHSS) a visit by Homi Bhabha, director of the Mahindra Humanities Centre at Harvard University. We organized a series of events that were planned around a two-pronged goal. First, we wanted to use Professor Bhabha's visit as an occasion for campus-wide interdisciplinary discussions among Stellenbosch University academic staff, emerging researchers such as post-doctoral fellows, post-graduate and under-graduate students, and members of the public. A second strategic goal of our planning was to draw attention to the important and unique role that the Humanities can play in debates about some of the most pressing issues in South African society. Ultimately, as a research initiative whose goal is to create conversations that invite participation from a range of disciplines, we wanted to create space for the exchange of ideas and to show case how we might bring the Humanities into dialogue with the Arts. Homi Bhabha's programme consisted of three main events: Engaged Scholarship and Ethical Citizenship; Art as Visual Conscience of Society; Dialogue, Writing, and Humanity in Troubled Times.

Engaged Scholarship and Ethical Citizenship

This event was organized on Homi Bhabha's first day as our guest. We invited him to lead a conversation with faculty, post-doc fellows and senior post-graduate students on the theme of Engaged Scholarship and Ethical Citizenship. "Decolonisation" and debates about colonialism's legacies and issues around decolonising the curriculum have occupied the public discourse space in South Africa since the emergence of "the fallist" students' movements (i.e., #RhodesMustFall, #FeesMustFall protests). We knew that Homi Bhabha would introduce a broader perspective in these debates and that his insights would open up the space for an exchange of ideas through vibrant dialogue and interpretation. The event was organized as a reading group based on Homi Bhabha's Foreword to Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, which is titled “Framing Fanon." Buhle Zuma facilitated the conversation.

                                                 (From left to right, Dr Buhle Khanyile, Professor Homi Bhabha and Dr Kim Wale chairing the session)

The series includes the piece, It's a pleasure to meet you, a conversation between Candice Mama and Siyah Mgoduka, two young people in their twenties who had not met before, but both of whom had lost their fathers to assassinations by apartheid security police, and how each of them respond differently to their fathers' killer. ​


(From left to right, Professor Tamar Garb and Professor Homi Bhabha, Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela with Siyah Mgoduka and Candice Mama) 

On the 16 August 2017, two renowned scholars, Professor Homi Bhabha, who is the world's premier post-colonial literary theorist and Director of the Mahindra Humanities Ce​nter at Harvard University, and Emeritus Professor Njabulo Ndebele, Chairman of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, poet, novelist and essayist who has received worldwide acclaim for his work, joined together with Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela to discuss 'Dialogue, Writing, Humanity in Troubled Times'. Professor Homi Bhabha and Emeritus Professor Njabulos Ndebele are known to integrate academic inquiry with public engagement, extending themselves well beyond scholarly concerns to challenge the status quo in troubled times.

Professor Homi Bhabha and Emeritus Professor Njabulo Ndebele introduced how their upbringing and the surrounding social and political climate shaped their interest and conscientisation of the social and political. Further how spaces create ethical and political life that informs the value placed on humanity.


(from left to right; Professors, Nico Koopman, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Wim De Villiers, Njabulo Ndebele, Mrs Catherine De Villiers, Professor Homi Bhabha and Eugene Cloete) 

An interactive conversation hosted by Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela between Professor Njabulo Ndebele and Professor Homi Bhabha as the pictures show below. 


For three Thursdays during March 2017, Studies i​n Historical Trauma and Transformation hosted a series of open conversations on race.

These public conversations were led by coloured, black and white women who have maintained sustained conversation about race and racism, grappling with experiencing the reality of race as it plays out in their relationship with one another. Our interest in these dialogue processes is in learning about the potentially transformative moments that emerge from the women’s encounter with “the other,” and to understand some of the deeper issues that are difficult to face in conversations about race.

Click below to view video clips of each of the series:

Open Dialogues on Race (Conversation 3) - Tumi Jonas-Mpofu in conversation with Martina Dahlmanns

Open Dialogue on Race Series - Conversation 3 (From left to right: Tumi Jonas-Mpofu; Tumi and Martina Dahlmanns)


Open Dialogues on Coloured Identity (Conversation 2)


Open Dialogue on Race Series - Conversation 3 (LEFT PHOTO: From left to right: Dr Lane Benjamin; Debora Platen; photo: Khadija Heeger)
(RIGHT PHOTO: Dr Lane Benjamin)

Open Dialogue on Race Series - Conversation 3 - Audience


Open Dialogues on Race (Conversation 1): "Kim Wale in conversation with

Mosa Phadi"

Open Dialogue on Race Series - Conversation 1 (Image 1: From left to right: Dr Kim Wale, Mosa Phadi, Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela)



Professors Jean Decety, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Eugene Cloete, and Awie Greef. Professor Jean Decety, Irving B. Harris Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Chicago. He is a leading scholar on the social neuroscience of empathy, morality and prosocial behavior, and gave a lecture titled "Moral Progress, Empathy and Reason: A Social Neuroscience Perspective"




Symposia and conferences are an important opportunity to keep abreast of current thinking and the latest developments in one's area of research. Through conferences and symposia, our aim is to bring together leading scholars and emerging researchers to explore the various dimensions of our research agenda: historical trauma and memory in global context and the interconnected issues of intergenerational trauma and memory in the aftermath of mass trauma and violence; empathy and its relation to transformation; and violence and its impact on gender relationships.

Symposium, 10-12 August 2016

Historical Trauma and Memory: Postcolonial Legacies and the Meaning of Being Human

This symposium was held at Stellenbosch University on 10 – 12 August 2016. It brought together a small group of scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds to consider mainly two critical questions. The first question concerns how post conflict/postcolonial subjectivity in social interaction may be shaped by traumatic pasts. A second goal of the symposium was to probe the question of what it means to restore humanity in the aftermath of mass violence and trauma. In other words, what are the values, practices and traditions we might draw from in order to aspire to a present and future different from a past that destroyed the very essence of what it is to be human. 

You may view the symposium report here.

Exhibition of Researchers' Work

In November 2016, students and post-doctoral fellows presented an exhibition of the prolific flourishing for the interdisciplinary projects they have been working on. We hosted an end-of-year event to showcase this range of work, which included the launch of books authored by Dr Kim Wale, Dr Samantha van Schalkwyk (as co-editor with Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela), and PhD student Naleli Morojele. Projects that bring together the Arts into dialogue with Humanities research were a Photo-Voice exhibition based on research conducted by PhD student Lerato Machetela, and a dramatic/theatre presentation of a story of the legacy of trauma and violence experienced by women working on farms. The play was directed by Michelle Hoffman, a Masters student.


Standing in front of the images of the books that were launched are from the left are: Naleli Morojele (PhD student), Dr Samantha van Schalkwyk (Senior Researcher), Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela), Dr Kim Wale (post-doctoral fellow), and Faeza Meyer (Housing rights activist and one of the speakers at the launch of the books).


Professor Anthony Collins, Keynote speaker at the launch of the resarchers’ books.

Empathy 1.jpg                                          Empathy 2.jpg

         Photo-Voice Exhibition: Aviwe Lemekhaya with                             Ms Letshego Moathlodi (CEO Diamant Hospital in Jagersfontein) and Aviwe  Lemekhaya (one of the
his poster with photographs of his community in Jagersfontein            participants in the PhotoVoice Research project an member of the young men’s group,                                                                                                                                                                                       
“Diamonds in the Rough” Who performed at the event).

Exploring Intergroup Empathy and its Limits: An ​Interdisciplinary Symposium

On 4-5 May, Historical Trauma and Transformation hosted a symposium on intergroup empathy that brought together professional practitioners, scholars, and emerging researchers from different branches in psychology (including social psychology, psychoanalysis, social neuroscience, and cognitive neuroscience). The goal was to engage a multidisciplinary appr​oach to explore the psychological mechanisms that play out in intergroup relations, with a particular focus on empathy (and also its limitations) in the context of interracial interactions. Dr Melike Fourie, who was partly responsible for organising the symposium, also used the event to spearhead social neuroscience in South Africa as an emerging discipline that shows rich promise in enhancing our understanding of complex social phenomena. Together with Professor Mark Solms from UCT, she delivered a public lecture entitled “Social neuroscience and its contribution to understanding complex social issues in contemporary South Africa." ​​

The keynote lecture was delivered by Dr Emile Bruneau, head of the Peace and Conflict Neuroscience Lab at the University of Pennsylvania. In his talk, “Putting social neuroscience to work for peace", he examined the processes that drive discrimination and intergroup conflict, focusing on how the methods of social neuroscience could help to identify and characterise the (often unconscious) cognitive biases that drive conflict. Other presenters and contributers at the symposium included Dr Lane Benjamin, Prof Kevin Durrheim, Monica du Toit, Prof Ernesta Meintjes, Dr Lidewij Niezink, Prof Desmond Painter, Dr Katherine Train, Dr Ross Truscott, Dr Buhle Zuma, Dr Kim Wale, and Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela.​

empathy symposium.jpg

Troubling the Haunting Power of the Past; Interrupting Intergenerational Cycles of Historical Trauma​

An Interdisciplinary Symposium was hosted by Historical Trauma and Transformation and Queens University​ on the 15-16 May 2017.​​ This interdisciplinary symposium was a dialogue between scholars from Northern Ireland and South Africa. It aimed to examine the connection between historical trauma and memory, and to illuminate how this relationship plays out in the public and private realms in societies with a history of violent pasts. Discussions in the symposium engaged with, and reflected on the established theoretical tenets that inform global scholarship on the central themes of the symposium. The symposium also served to interrogate theory in order to address critical questions regarding the challenges of societal and individual transformation in post-apartheid South Africa and in the aftermath of the “troubles" in Northern Ireland. With a multidisciplinary approach, including the arts (visual arts, film a​​nd theatre), the symposium intended to start a dialogue between scholars from the two countries, through the exploration of new intellectual frontiers within the buzzing hub of scholarly debates on historical trauma, and what healing might mean in its aftermath. The starting point of the discussion was that the Humanities and the Arts are more essential than ever, to help us understand the challenges facing societies affected by historical trauma, to advance scholarship, and to contribute to new knowledge production that inform public opinion and guide us to solutions.

The keynote lecture was delivered by Professor John Brewer from the Senator George Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice. In his talk, 'Rethinking Victim Issues', he conceptualised victims as moral beacons within societies and how the victimhood experience itself provokes a moral response that is rooted in a 'relational ethic', which is outworked in most victims through emotional empathy, compassion and the wish to 'get along'.  A public lecture was given by Dr Emery Kalema a Post-Doctor Fellow from the Studies in Historical Trauma and Transformation with Nomfundo Mogabi, Director of Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation. Dr Emery Kalema gave his lecture on 'Congolese Political Regimes and the Politics of Forgetting' and Nofundo Mogabi gave her lecture on 'Post-Apartheid Traumatic Legacies and Violence'. Other presenters and contributors of the Symposiom included, Professor Annemiek Ritchers, Professor Kopano Ratele, Professor Hastings Donnan, Professor Jaco Bernard Naude, Dr Cheryl Lawther, Dr Lane Benjamin, Dr Buhle Zuma, Dr Kim Wale and Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela.