Photo of some of the members of the team, December 2017
The Research Chair in Transformation and Historical Trauma goes to the heart of the issues at the forefront of contemporary debates about historical trauma, its expression in memory and its repercussions across generations. Few topics stake a more compelling claim on humanities research than the legacies of historical trauma. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the Chair brings a critical research perspective to bear on the traditional approaches to trauma and its transgenerational repercussions, while seeking to engage with the question of the various expressions of transformation in post-apartheid South Africa, and what transformation means in the aftermath of a violent and oppressive past. While focused on the South African context, the inquiry speaks to global questions of the transmission of traumatic memory in the aftermath of historical trauma, dealing with the past, and the possibility of breaking intergenerational cycles of historical trauma. This is a strategic research initiative, poised not only to contribute significantly to public debates about the complex interplay of the historical, cultural and traumatic dimensions of memory, but also to create a vibrant research hub in the global south on these issues of historical trauma, memory and transformation.
The Chair will provide a unique platform that is rooted in the complex social realities of South Africa, and open up new areas of interdisciplinary inquiry. Debates will be organised around national and transnational scholarly exchange. We intend to go beyond theoretical debate to engage with questions that have rarely been explored in order to advance scholarship and to contribute to new knowledge production that will inform public opinion. Our view is that research should not only advance one’s discipline within the academy, but also should have some impact on public debate and influence audiences at the broader level of civil society.