Exploring the salience of intergenerational trauma among children and grandchildren of victims of apartheid-era gross human rights violations
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Apartheid, as a systemised and institutionalised process of race-based discrimination, exploitation and oppression, left in its wake a deeply traumatised society. Many feel that this collective trauma has not been sufficiently addressed and that this has rendered the peace achieved after Apartheid's demise increasingly fragile. In addition to this, we are reminded that traumatic memories affect not only those who have personally experienced conflict and violence, but also future generations through what is known as intergenerational transmission of trauma. This paper explores the salience of intergenerational trauma in South Africa. At a conceptual level, it is framed by the life course perspective and historical trauma theory. Methodologically, a hermeneutic phenomenological approach was utilised. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 20 children and grandchildren (females = 10, males = 10) of victims of Apartheid-era gross human rights violations. The interview data was subjected to an interpretative analytical process that yielded a number of themes which provide support for the salience of intergenerational trauma amongst descendants of victims of Apartheid-era gross human rights violations. These themes 'secondary traumatisation, socio- economic and material impact, and sense of powerlessness and helplessness' are discussed along with their possible implications, and foci for further research pointed to.