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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

Discussion on decolonising the UFS draws international speakers
2017-11-07


During an insightful two days (27-28 October 2017), bright young minds and experienced thinkers came together at the University of the Free State (UFS) to engage in deep philosophical talks on the topic of decolonisation.  The event was hosted by the university’s Centre for Africa Studies and the Department of Philosophy.

Heavyweight thinkers
Attendees to this colloquium were treated to the thoughts of renowned academics from various social sciences disciplines, including: Prof Francis B. Nyamnjoh, University of Cape Town; Prof Henning Melber, Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, Nordic Africa Institute, University of London, University of Pretoria and the UFS; Prof Heidi Hudson, UFS; Prof Sabelo J Ndlovu-Gatsheni, University South Africa; Alida Kok, Unisa; and from the UFS Prof Johann Rossouw, Dr Stephanie Cawood, Dr Christian Williams, and Khanya Motshabi. All the speakers had extensive global experience that allowed them to use practical examples to illustrate theoretical ideas. These ranged from students removing colonial spirits with African rituals, incorporating indigenous knowledge systems in curricula, to the creation of cultural houses on campuses where students can become acquainted with different cultures in a safe space.  

 

 Description: Decolonising colloquium bigger Tags: Decolonising colloquium bigger

Questions from attendees at the recent colloquium on decolonising the university,
hosted by the Centre for Africa Studies and the Departement of Philosophy,
showed a search for solutions to the current decolonising dilemma.
Photo: Charl Devenish


Where to from here?
Questions from attendees showed a search for solutions to the current decolonising dilemma. How will it look? Is it possible? Has it worked anywhere? During the two days, it became clear that colonialism reaches far and deep, rendering decolonisation a complex problem that should be addressed carefully to avoid greater divisions. “Colonisers and colonised are two sides of a coin,” Prof Melber explained. “Essentially it means that we are part of the same coin.” This metaphor illustrated how there is no right or wrong world view, or right or wrong knowledge – there should, however, be an integrated approach suitable for that “one coin”. 

It starts at home
Successful decolonisation starts in the mind, it was agreed. Colonisation robbed us all of a richness of knowledge by offering absolutes, or “the only truths”. Questioning existing colonial knowledge and exploring other bodies of knowledge will ultimately lead to a new world of knowledge. Being mediators between the different worlds of knowledge is what the new generation of academics needs to become.  

 

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