Portraits - South Africa

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Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cape Town. She served on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as coordinator of victims' public hearings in the Western Cape. In that role, she participated in, and facilitated encounters between family members of victims of gross human rights and perpetrators responsible for these human rights abuses. Since serving on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and witnessing some of the unexpected outcomes of the TRC's public hearings process and public dialogue about the past, Gobodo-Madikizela has been interested in this question: what features of the TRC process were effective in opening up the possibility of transformation? She has been studying the process of forgiveness and its relation to past trauma in encounters between survivors/victims of gross human rights violations and perpetrators in order to deepen understanding of the reparative elements of forgiveness.