Historical Trauma and Transformation
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​​​​​Seminars/Special Events

A monthly series of events organised as seminars and public dialogue events serve as a point of intellectual exchange and engagement with issues that are central to our research agenda. We believe that research in the Humanities and Social Sciences should not only be about contributing new knowledge production and engagement within the academe. Part of the social function of a university involves a dialogue between science and society; research in the social sciences and humanities should strive for a connection between the scientific on the one hand, and the social, political and cultural realms on the other. Speakers in the monthly series include members of the HTT research team, professional practitioners, established and emerging researchers drawn from our network of international and South African scholars, as well as young people who represent a diverse range of views.

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. 


Mandela Day 18 July 2017 Screenin​g of "Indians Can't Fly". 

To celebrate Mandela Day, 18 July 2017, the documentary "Indians Can't Fly" was screened at The Scholtz Hall, Stellenbosch University Museum. The film narrated the life and death in detention of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol and his role in the struggle for social transformation. Following the screening Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela chaired a conversation with Enver Samuels the producer of the film with the audience.

Screening the film gave an opportunity for the audience to engage with themes such as reconciliation, remembering and truth. Questions were raised as to what does reconciliation look like in South Africa, how do we in post-apartheid South Africa remember the past and tell the stories of the past. These questions gave rise to a conversation which explored how memory is stored in the body and how the following generations carry the wounds of the past. In the film the story of Ahmed Timol was told by his nephew, one of the guests of the audience was Michael September the nephew of Dulcie September who described is own burden of carrying the story and pain of Dulce September. Dulcie September was an anti-apartheid political activist who was assassinated in Paris, France. Within the conversation Michael September paid tribute to the role that the next generation enacts in continuing the journey of truth. Through the discussion it was acknowledged the powerful role that truth plays in how the pain of the past is carried by the next generation. ​


Indians Can't Fly film (From left to right, Enver Samuels, Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela and Enver Samuals in conversation, Michael September nephew of Dulie September.)

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).