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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

Tutu-Jonker Prestige Lecture Series tackles reconciliation
2017-11-13

Description: ' 000 a Tutu Jonker Prestige Lecture Tags: Tutu Jonker Prestige Lecture

Prof Rian Venter; Prof Eddy van der Borght, guest speaker from Vrije
Universiteit, Amsterdam; and Prof Fanie Snyman, Dean of the Faculty
of Theology and Religion at the UFS.
Photo: Supplied

The Faculty of Theology and Religion recently hosted the annual Tutu-Jonker Prestige Lecture Series at the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS). The purpose of the lecture series is to address modern-day and pressing social challenges from a theological and religious perspective.

With the theme Religions and reconciliation of conflicting identities, guest speaker and Desmond Tutu Chair on reconciliation at the Faculty of Theology: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Prof Eddy van der Borght, spoke about the reformation in the context of shifting European identity formations.

Reconciliation versus social identity

“My focus is on what the Christian concept of reconciliation means for reconciliation in society,” said Prof Van der Borght. He deliberated the global problem of conflict generated by diverse social identities. He also emphasised that religion has huge resources to contribute towards overcoming conflicting identities.

“The theory is that religions know about reconciliation, while in practice it is much more complicated, because often religions are part of the problem of conflict,” he says. He said religions are often the problem in social cultural identities, especially regarding conflict involving different nations, racial, and ethnic groups.

Honouring prominent theologians Tutu and Jonker

The name Tutu-Jonker originates from the two theologians, Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the late Prof Willie Jonker, who are both regarded as prominent theologians known for their emphasis on reconciliation in South Africa. The significance of combining the two names is said to bring together two different theological traditions (Anglican and Reformed), cultural groups, and races.

Prof Fanie Snyman, Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religion, said, “This will also serve the purpose of a welcoming culture at the faculty, embracing diversity and embodying reconciliation.” Both of these theologians received honorary doctorates in Theology from the UFS.

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