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Rosemary Jolly

by rjp218 Aug 21, 2018
Rosemary Jolly

Professor, Weiss Chair of the Humanities in Literature and Human Rights

Departments of Comparative Literature, English and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies; African Studies and Bioethics Programs

College of the Liberal Arts

2016/17 Rock Ethics Institute Faculty Fellow

458 Burrowes
University Park, PA 16802

Office Phone: (814) 865-1188


Rose/Mbali Jane Jolly (BA Hons. Saskatchewan; MA and PhD Toronto) was born in South Africa and left for Canada in 1981 with her family fleeing from the apartheid regime. She came to Penn State in 2013.  Her overarching interest is in the ways in which representations of violence and reconciliation actually affect inter-governmental, inter-community and inter-personal relations in contexts of conflict. Her work explores the links between living conditions of extreme deprivation, gender-based violence and coercion, and the HIV pandemic. She has worked with victim-survivors of state sponsored torture, gender-based violence, and communities fractured by illness globally. She explores the ethics of working with highly vulnerable communities in research and development. 

She has published in the fields of South African literature and culture, postcolonial theory, and the critical medical humanities.  Her work has involved mixed quantitative and qualitative methodologies.  She is particularly experienced in qualitative analysis of oral testimony and tools of qualitative research that involve embodied gesture in addition to conventional verbalization. Professor Jolly is the first humanist to have held the Principal Investigator position on a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Grant, back in 2003.  She led an interdisciplinary team of researchers in the prevention and treatment of integrated HIV/AIDS and Gender-based Violence research based in underdeveloped, rural communities in South Africa from 2003 to 2013, when she moved to Penn State. She is author of two monographs on intersectoral violence (most recently Cultured Violence, 2010) numerous articles, and has raised over 5 million in research dollars from a variety of different funding sources for both literary critical work and applied research into violence and HIV treatment and prevention in under-resourced communities. She currently leads an interdisciplinary group, REACH, that researches sexual violence in a number of different contexts, from campuses to inner city communities and conflict/post-conflict communities, to sites of refugee and military vulnerability to gender-based violence and coercion.

Dr. Jolly is the co-founder of two rape-crisis clinics in rural Kwa-Zulu-Natal, South Africa, one of which has won a national award for service excellence.

Rock Fellowship Project Description

In terms of work as a Rock Fellow, Dr. Jolly is initiating her work on Bodymapping as a combined program of prevention and treatment of gender-based violence, including sexual assault and rape.  Bodymapping is a technique in which victim-survivors answer a series of questions about themselves, their scars (physical and psychological), and their sources of resilience and strength.  They do this by literally mapping areas of vulnerability and social support on a large map they draw of an outline of their bodies.  The process involves up to 10 survivors, building their sense of their embodied sense of how they see their bodies and how they see the community interacting with them as victim-survivors.  No one needs to do an artist to do this, and the materials we offer are basic: newsprint, collage, paint and the like.  Body-mappers report increased self-esteem and self-knowledge in the wake of the Bodymapping experience, which can build solidarity across the cohort of survivors. Not only are the resulting maps often beautiful and always compelling.  The maps we will garner from a Bodymapping initiative we shall undertake in collaboration with CAPS and the Center for Women Students, with the permission of their creators, will be used for facilitated discussions about the embodied suffering of survivors of sexual abuse and assault with a variety of campus groups, both male and female, from athletics teams to Greek life.