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Gobodo-Madikizela, P. (2008). Trauma, Forgiveness and the Witnessing Dance: Making Public Spaces Intimate. J. Anal. Psychol., 53(2):169-188.

(2008). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 53(2):169-188

Trauma, Forgiveness and the Witnessing Dance: Making Public Spaces Intimate

Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela

In this paper I explore the concept of forgiveness as a response to gross human rights violations. I present a conceptual examination of the effects of massive trauma in relation to what I refer to as the ‘unfinished business’ of trauma. Using a psychoanalytic framework, I consider the process of ‘bearing witness’ about trauma and examine how this process opens up the possibility of reciprocal expressions of empathy between victim and perpetrator. I then argue that, in this context of trauma testimony and witnessing, empathy is essential for the development of remorse on the part of perpetrators, and of forgiveness on the part of victims. Using a case study from South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) I clarify the relationship between empathy and forgiveness, and show how the restorative modelofthe TRC can openupanethical space and create the possibility of transformation for victims, perpetrators and bystanders. In my conclusion I suggest that forgiveness in politics is the only action that holds promise for the repair of brokenness in post-conflict societies, particularly if, as in South Africa, victims have to live together with perpetrators and beneficiaries in the same country.

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