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22 August 2018
Prof Coetzee is retelling old stories in a new book
"Failing to Learn Doomed to repeat" was one of the bookworks on display.

The title of Prof Jan K Coetzee’s latest book, Books & Bones & Other Things, says it all. The book looks into the many aspects that have built our society by presenting in a new way the stories contained in old books collected over the years. 

Prof Coetzee is a Senior Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of the Free State (UFS). Books & Bones & Other Things was launched on 14 August 2018 and coincided with an exhibition of various “bookworks”   art installations by Prof Coetzee that feature old books, sculptures, artefacts, and fossils.
 
Book resulting from research programme 
   

“This is a book on books so the library is the perfect venue to launch a book on old texts as documents of life,” said Prof Coetzee.

For the past seven years he has been directing a Master’s and PhD programme in Sociology called The Narrative Study of Lives. His project, Documents of Life, from which this book came, focuses on a collection of old texts the oldest of which dates back to 1605.

“We live in storytelling societies and for as long as we can remember we have been telling stories. Over time the ability to produce books was born. Any collection of books can tell you a lot about your own life and the society you live in."

“I cannot read the stories of many of these old books because their narratives are closed. I have to re-narrate the books, change the narrative convention and present them in a way that makes sense to me. By combining the books with art and artefacts I want the books to tell their ancient stories in new ways.”

Book launches and intellectual discussions

At the book launch, Prof Corli Witthuhn, Vice-Rector: Research said: “What we have achieved with this launch and exhibition is unbelievable. We always try to create an intellectual space in the library.

“A book such as this is the pinnacle of an academic career. It is multidisciplinary and it looks at the world in a different way. That is what scholarship is about.”

A painting by Robert Hodgins was also handed over to the Johannes Stegmann Gallery, home of the corporate collection of the UFS, at the event. 

News Archive

Reflection should stimulate action – Prof Petersen
2017-05-25

 Description: Panel discussion: Reflection should stimulate action  Tags: Panel discussion: Reflection should stimulate action

Panellists at a discussion held by the Institute for
Reconciliation and Social Justice were, from the left,
Prof Elelwani Ramugondo of the University of Cape Town,
Prof Melissa Steyn from Wits, Prof Francis Petersen,
Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, and SK Luwaca,
president of the Student Representative Council on the
Bloemfontein Campus.
Photo: Johan Roux

Photo Gallery

The University of the Free State (UFS) should be a place of belonging, a place where staff, academics and students belong and can make a contribution to a democratic society.

This is according to Prof Francis Petersen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS. He was one of four panellists at a discussion, titled Diversity, inclusivity and social justice and the renewed call for decolonisation, hosted by the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice (IRSJ). Prof Elelwani Ramugondo from the University of Cape Town, Prof Melissa Steyn from Wits, and SK Luwaca, president of the Student Representative Council on the Bloemfontein Campus, were the other panellists.

The IRSJ facilitated the discussion, which formed part of the inauguration proceedings for Prof Petersen as new Vice-Chancellor and Rector, in the Albert Wessels Auditorium on the Bloemfontein Campus on 18 May 2017.

Renewed thinking about decolonisation

Prof Steyn said: “We can develop our vocabulary to understand our real differences.” She noted that we are all part of reproducing, resisting and reframing the current order.

Universities should be a place where questions can be asked, Prof Ramugondo said. She elaborated on the term decolonisation, saying we needed to investigate how we related and reflected on it, mentioning the myths that surrounded the term. “We should renew our thinking [about decolonisation] at universities,” she said.

“We can develop our vocabulary
to understand our real differences.”

What does a transformed UFS look like?
According to Luwaca unity isn’t something that can be faked, but everybody should work towards it, building a rainbow nation together. It is important for everyone to be on the same page: “We have to ask ourselves what a transformed university looks like.”

Prof Petersen said it was important to often pause and reflect: “Reflection should stimulate action. Reflection is not something without action.”

After the discussion, a lively question-and-answer session with the panellists took place. Prof André Keet, director of the IRSJ and facilitator of the discussion, suggested the gathering should be the start of many similar engagements.

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