Study 1: Empathy in Victim-Perpetrator Dialogue Encounters in the Aftermath of Mass Violence and Genocide

Principal Researcher: Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela

Co-Researchers: The PAKH Group, Düsseldorf

Meeting with PAKH Group: Click here

Project Description:

This project integrates the study of two cases by examining the different components of empathy and exploring its development in the context of dialogue between members of groups from different sides of political conflict and genocide. The study will illuminate the phenomenon of empathy and map out its development in the dialogue between victims and perpetrators in South Africa, and between second-generation descendants survivors and perpetrators in Germany. The project aims to identify the external and internal (intra-psychic) factors that contribute to the development of empathy, and to elucidate, from a psychoanalytic perspective, the factors that allow empathy to develop in a manner that fosters relationships of trust. In this way then, our research will take the concept of empathy out of its traditional exclusively individualistic context and develop a theory of relational empathy in public life.

The study is based on the evaluation of two case studies. The first case study is based on the dialogue encounter between mothers of seven victims and a black former police collaborator who lured the victims to a trap to be killed by apartheid government security police. The second is an on-going Jewish-German dialogue process of members of PAKH for more than fifteen years; the PAKH group consists of adult children of Holocaust survivors and descendants of Nazi perpetrators.

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