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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

#Women'sMonth: PSP provides scholarly support system for Prof Wilson-Strydom
2017-08-17

Description: Merridy Wilson-Strydom Tags: National Research Foundation, Prof Merridy Wilson-Strydom, Centre for Research on Higher Education and Development, Prestige Scholars Programme, writing retreats, higher education literature 

Prof Merridy Wilson-Strydom loves asking questions and
therefore has a strong focus on research.
She also enjoys supervising PhD students.
Photo: Sonia Small


Publishing her first book and receiving a rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF) are career highlights for Prof Merridy Wilson-Strydom. As an emerging scholar, the Prestige Scholars Programme (PSP) of the University of the Free State (UFS) played an important role in reaching these goals. 

According to the Associate Professor in the Centre for Research on Higher Education and Development, the PSP provided an important scholarly support system, both through the coordinators and the other researchers who are part of the programme.

Writing retreats made book possible
“I found the support and advice provided during the process of applying for funding and rating really helpful,” she says about receiving a NRF C2 rating, based on her work over the past eight years.
She compliments the PSP writing retreats, which “provided a wonderful space for writing and it was during the writing retreats that I did a lot of the writing for my book that was published by Routledge in 2015.” Her book, University Access and Success: Capabilities, Diversity and Social Justice, moving back into academia from institutional research, working closely with undergraduate students as research participants, and postgraduate supervision, are all highlights of her work.

Her book makes a valuable contribution to higher education literature related to access and transition to universities. But, contrary to the mainstream approaches to access which rely on school performance and admissions tests, she poses the issue of social justice at the centre of the analysis.

Student project produces E-book
Another project headed by her and funded by the NRF Thuthuka Programme, was a study to understand the lives of 40 undergraduate students (on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus) who attended township high schools. The study had a particular focus on identifying institutional practices that either enable or constrain students’ capabilities for success in undergraduate study.

One of the outputs was the writing of an E-book called In our own words: Perspectives on being a student. It was written by 30 undergraduate students and the purpose was to provide a platform for students to tell their own stories about life as a student. 

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