Prof. Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela awarded Templeton Prize

Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela

Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela

Published Jun 9, 2024


The 2024 Templeton Prize has been awarded to Professor Pumla GobodoMadikizela, The South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) Chair for Violent Histories and Historical Trauma and the founding director of the Centre for the study of the Afterlife of Violence and the Reparative Quest (AVReQ).

Gobodo-Madikizela was awarded for her exemplary contributions to scholarship and advancing knowledge in the field of forgiveness and processes of repair in the aftermath of trauma violence.

The Templeton Prize is awarded annually and honours individuals whose work draws from the scholarly disciplines to explore the deepest questions about humanity and the universe, making it “the world's most interesting prize”.

In the award press release, the Templeton Prize said about Gobodo-Madikizela: “Her career as a scholar and a public figure is distinguished by her effort to repair ruptures created by past violence and to build a path towards healing and restoration in an ongoing process she calls ‘the reparative quest'.”

The president of the John Templeton Foundation, Heather Dill, added: “Her achievements mark her as a leading figure in understanding and confronting the deeply rooted psychological scars borne by those who experienced unimaginable loss.”

Gobodo-Madikizela said she felt a deep sense of gratitude to receive the prize. She referred to it as a “rare gift” that offers an opportunity to fund new research projects at AVReQ, especially on violent histories and repair.

“I am interested in how violent histories so often play out transgenerationally in new forms, and on deepening our understanding of complex processes of repair. In my work, I have always pursued new avenues of inquiry, seeking ways of contributing to new frontiers of knowledge.

“I am hoping that as a team of scholars, researchers, and our network of partners affiliated with AVReQ, we will continue to rise to this critical intellectual challenge in these challenging times

“I am excited that I can use the Templeton Prize to help fund our postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows at a time of reduced funding.”

Gobodo-Madikizela has pledged to donate a total of R8 million to Stellenbosch

University, which will be allocated as follows: R5m towards an endowment scholarship in the name of her parents, Nobantu and Tukela Gobodo; R1m to the Sunrise (Stellenbosch University Research and Innovation Strategic Excellence programme) to support future professors; and R2m to AVReQ. She said her hope is that the donation to AVReQ will attract additional co-funding to help post-doctoral fellows to advance to leadership in the knowledge economy, and to support postgraduate students so they do not have to take on additional work, and can graduate within the funding period of their scholarships.

Gobodo-Madikizela explained that at its core her work is guided by humanist values and aims to address in new ways the fundamental questions about the transgenerational impact of historical trauma, and “what are the conditions of psychological and moral imagination for repair that might open the possibility for social solidarity and building new futures”. Her first book, A Human Being Died that Night, was recently reprinted as a Mariner Books classic. “This book has played a big part in the trajectory my work has followed,” she said.

“It has certainly contributed to my winning this prize. In it I grapple with the tension between of the horror and the humanity, and I try to explain what's going on in a way that deepens the complexity.” Gobodo-Madikizela works with a global interdisciplinary network of scholars, with some of whom she has collaborated as coauthor, editor, and co-editor of several books on trauma narratives, transgenerational repercussions of historical trauma, and the conditions for interrupting these traumatic repetitions of history.

The Templeton Prize is the second prestigious award Gobodo-Madikizela has won. In 2020, she was awarded the Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship award, which at the time was the most prestigious award of the Oppenheimer Trust.

Professor Sibusiso Moyo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Study, said about Gobodo-Madikizela's prize: “I am delighted that Professsor GobodoMadikizela's contribution has been recognised in this special way. Her plans to donate some of her prize to Stellenbosch University is really humbling and shows her passion for the work she does and dedication to support the next generation of scholars.

“I hope her winning the award will inspire the next generation of scholars and set a high bar for excellence in research with the values she espouses – excellence, compassion, accountability, respect and ethics.”

Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Wim de Villiers, too, is immensely proud of Gobodo-Madikizela’s achievement.

“This award once again shows that SU is an enabling environment and contributes to world-leading knowledge production in multiple fields,” he said.

“I am absolutely delighted to personally, and on behalf of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, offer my heartiest congratulations to Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela,” adds Prof Anthony Leysens, Dean of the SU Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

“The Templeton Price is on the level of the Nobel Prize awards, but in the sphere of significant humanist contributions at the intersection of spirituality, religion and science. The list of recipients is impressive (with Archbishop Desmond Tutu being the only other South African to have received this award).

“Prof Gobodo-Madikizela’s work has inspired and continues to inspire those who, through their research, believe in the power of the humanities to bring about change with the emphasis on mutual understanding, caring, forgiveness and reconciliation.

“This award recognises her achievements and her contribution to the humanist ideal. As South Africans we should all be proud.”

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