Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is Professor and Research Chair in Historical Trauma and Transformation at Stellenbosch University. She served as a member of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which formed the basis of her research and award-winning book, A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness, published seven times in multiple languages. She has expanded on this earlier work to probe the role of empathy more deeply to make transparent the interconnected relationship among empathy, Ubuntu and the embodied African phenomenon of inimba—a Xhosa word that loosely translated means “umbilical cord”. Her goal is to find a richer, deeper and more complex understanding of empathy that takes into account an African knowledge archive.
Gobodo-Madikizela’s honors are many: she was awarded an honorary doctorate of theology from the Friedrich-Schiller University in Germany (2017); an honorary doctorate of law from Holy Cross University in Massachusetts (2006); and an honorary doctorate of law from Rhodes University in South Africa (2019). In 2005, she was recognized in the “100 People who Made a Difference” permanent exhibit in the Hall of Heroes at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Ohio. In 2010, she was awarded the Social Change Award by Rhodes University for her contributions towards social change in South Africa. She was held research positions and fellowships in the United States and Europe, including Research Advisor and Global Scholar at Queen’s University, Belfast, since 2017.