Stellenbosch University Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. Photo: Supplied
Stellenbosch University Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. Photo: Supplied

Stellenbosch University Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela scoops Oppenheimer Fellowship Award

By IOL Reporter Time of article published Jun 22, 2021

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The Oppenheimer Memorial Trust announced that the SU faculty of Arts and Social Science professor scooped the prize for her proposal titled “Aesthetics of Trauma, Poetics of Repair”, and concerns the re-thinking of trauma in new terms, specifically focusing on historical trauma and its transgenerational repercussions.

“The project will explore how the arts, rather than forgiveness and reconciliation, might be deployed to pursue a reparative and transformative vision. This work will play an important role in shaping rigorous debates on historical trauma and its transgenerational repercussions. Prof Gobodo-Madikizela holds the South African National Research Chair in Violent Histories and Transgenerational Trauma,” said the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust statement.

Gobodo-Madikizela holds accolades that include the Harvard Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Fellowship, the Alan Paton Award, the Christopher Award, the Distinguished African Scholar Title at Cornell University’s Mario Einaudi Centre for International Studies, and the Eleanor Roosevelt Award.

The annual Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship Award, with a monetary value of R2 million, is ranked as one of Africa’s most prestigious research grants.

“The award recognises scholarship of the highest calibre across various academic and research disciplines. It is a flagship award by the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust. The Trust, which dates back to 1958, has grown to become a significant funder of education, arts and culture and civil society organisations. Over the past five years, distributions made by the Trust have ranged from R100 million to R130 million annually, with roughly 60% allocated to higher education, as part of a sustained effort to build local academia,” the trust said.

On her victory Gobodo said: “Being awarded this prestigious fellowship simply overwhelmed me. It is a tremendous honour, which I accept with deep gratitude. I believe that few topics stake a more compelling claim on humanities research than the legacies of violent histories and their enduring traumatic effects across generations. An opportunity to advance new intellectual frontiers in this field, and to be able to involve young scholars as partners on the project, is a rare gift.”

Chairperson of the Trust, Jonathan Oppenheimer, stated: “Prof Gobodo-Madikizela is a globally recognised scholar, a luminary in a fractured world in desperate need of healing intergenerational wounds. Her research is timely, interdisciplinary and tackles transgenerational trauma in new and relevant ways, to open up global participation. Prof Gobodo-Madikizela is the torch-bearer of truth and reconciliation, and leads the charge from Africa.”

While SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor Professor Wim de Villiers said: “Prof Gobodo-Madikizela’s immense contribution to re-thinking historical trauma, her continuous engagement with complex issues of the past, and the urgency of her research, make her more than deserving of this prestigious honour. Stellenbosch University is proud to have Prof Gobodo-Madikizela within our ranks and we look forward to seeing where this important project will lead.”

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