Forgiveness and the Maternal Body
by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela
In this essay, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela draws from her experience and observations as a member of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She discusses the relationship between empathy and the victims' capacity to forgive perpetrators and argues that empathy toward others is the essence of our ethical responsibility. She evokes the word inimba in her native Xhosa language, which can be translated as “umbilical cord,” to locate the origins of the response of empathy in the body. She draws insights from Emanuel Levinas's ethics to argue that the maternal is fundamental in both ethics and politics and that it bears some signifi cance for the embodied politics of forgiveness in the aftermath of trauma.