Historical Trauma and Transformation
Welcome to Stellenbosch University

Academic Staff and Associates

​​​Research Chair


Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela holds the South African National Research Chair in Violent Histories and Transgenerational Trauma. Her work focuses mainly on two strands of research. The first is exploring ways in which the impact of the dehumanising experiences of oppression and violence continues to play out in the next generation in the aftermath of historical trauma. For her second research area, she expands her earlier work on the relationship between remorse and forgiveness and probes the role of empathy more deeply by engaging a perspective that makes transparent the interconnected relationship among empathy, Ubuntu and the embodied African phenomenon of inimba—a Xhosa word that loosely translated means “umbilical cord". The goal is to find a richer, deeper and more complex understanding of empathy that takes into account an African knowledge archive.

Among her honours are: an Honorary Doctor of Laws from Rhodes University (2019);  Honorary Doctor of Theology from the Friedrich-Schiller University, Jena, Germany (2017), the Degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, from Holy Cross College in Massachusetts (2002). In 2005, she was honoured among “100 People who made a difference", and her name appears on the Permanent Exhibition of Hall of Heroes in the National Underground Railroad Freedom Centre, Cincinnati. In 2010, she received the “Social Change Award" from Rhodes University for “contribution made by leading psychologists to social change in South Africa." Since 2017, she has been serving as Research Advisor and Global Scholar at Queen's University, Belfast, affiliated with the Senator George Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice. Her past research fellowships include: at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School, Harvard University, the Claude Ake Visiting Chair in the Peace and Conflict Research Department, Uppsala University in Sweden, and Distinguished African Scholar at Cornell University's Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.

E-mail: pumlagm1@gmail.com | Click here for publications

Senior Researchers


Dr. Samantha van Schalkwyk is Senior Researcher at Historical Trauma & Transformation Studies. Samantha's work is concerned with questions around dealing with the repercussions of gender violence in post-Apartheid South Africa and transforming harmful patriarchal narratives which underpin such violence. Her research interests include: gender violence and identity; addressing patriarchal trauma; and the psycho-social aspects of women's agency. Through the facilitation of various public dialogues and internationally recognized symposia, Samantha has promoted broader levels of public engagement with the issue of gender violence.

Her latest book is titled, Narrative Landscape of Female Sexuality in Africa: Collective Stories of Trauma and Transition (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). Samantha is leading a major gender research project with tertiary education students in South Africa. The analytical focus is on significant moments of psychological connection between students and the ways in which harmful gendered social conditioning may be disrupted and transformed through dialogues between women and men.​
E-mail: samanthavs@sun.ac.za​ | Click here for publications


Dr. Melike Fourie is a Senior Researcher in the Historical Trauma and Transformation Unit. She holds an MSc in cognitive neuropsychology from University College London (2006), and a PhD in affective neuroscience from the University of Cape Town (2011). Her research interests span the domains of social psychology and social neuroscience, with a particular focus on intergroup relations. More specifically, she is interested in identifying and characterising the factors that affect how we see and respond to members of social (racial) outgroups, but also in the processes that may bring about individual and societal change. She believes a deeper understanding of implicit brain processes that drive behaviour is key in this undertaking. Melike is also involved in various community transformation projects designed to transcend racial biases and foster empathy and restitution. Her hope is to make a small contribution toward a more equal and racially-integrated society through her research.

Melike has lectured broadly in cognitive neuroscience, clinical neuropsychology, social psychology and statistics, and has several publications in international peer-reviewed journals and books.
E-mail: marethem@gmail.com | Click here for publications

Research Associates

Kopano.jpgProfessor Kopano Ratele is a Professor at the University of South Africa (Unisa) and researcher for the Unisa Violence, Injury and Peace Research Unit based at the South African Medical Research Council. His research, teaching, social-political activism, and community mobilisation focuses on the subject of men and masculinity as it intersects with violence, class, traditions, sexuality, and race. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed journals articles and book chapters, five edited books, and the critically acclaimed There Was This Goat (with Antjie Krog and Nosisi Mpolweni). His latest book is Liberating Masculinities (2016).​

E-mail: Kopano.Ratele@mrc.ac.za

christine.jpgDr. Christine Schliesser is a theologian and an ethicist at the Center for Ethics at Zurich University, Switzerland. She is also a Research Associate at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. Her areas of interest include conflict- and reconciliation studies, the theology and ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, human rights, development studies and the role of theology in the public sphere. Her most recent book is “Alternative Approaches in Conflict Resolution”, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018 (edited together with Martin Leiner).

Richard Benda_Web.jpg Dr Richard Benda. Academically, I identify myself as political philosopher who is interested in the complex interactions between religious and political agency. My passion has always been understanding of core foundations that hold societies and body politics together. So I studied Latin and Modern Languages in High school before undertaking legal studies in tertiary education. After graduating in Law and teaching Criminal law and Constitutional Law (Independent University of Kigali), I became increasingly dissatisfied with the legal as a critical interpretive framework of post-genocide Rwanda.  This led to doctoral studies in Religious Philosophy and Political life at the University of Manchester, United Kingdom. My research looked at the agency of committed and practicing religious faith in situations of extreme political violence like the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

Alongside teaching Contextual and Practical theology at Luther King House Theological College and Chester University, my post-doctoral research explores different tropes of the aftermath of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. More particularly, I am interested in (a) intergenerational narratives/dialogues around issues of guilt, shame, transformation and accountability, (b) transitional temporalities, and (c) the study of resistance and rescue as Positive Deviance.

My current work with the Historical Trauma and Transformation Unit stems from the fist category. I will be translating and critically engaging with the work of Edouard Bamporiki, a Rwandan artist, author and politician. I will be translating in English his two books Icyaha kuri bo ikimwaro kuri njye and mitingi jenosideri; both of which look at intergenerational narratives and dialogues arising from within the 'perpetrators' in-group.

Click here for publications

John-Brewer_new.jpgJohn Brewer is Professor of Post Conflict Studies in the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen's University Belfast. He was awarded an Honorary DSocSci from Brunel University and is a Member of the Royal Irish Academy, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a Fellow in the Academy of Social Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He has held visiting appointments at Yale University, St John's College Oxford, Corpus Christi College Cambridge and the Australia National University. He has been President of the British Sociological Association. He is Honorary Professor Extraordinary at Stellenbosch University and is a member of the United Nations Roster of Global Experts. He is the author or co-author of sixteen books and editor or co-editor of a further six.