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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

Research chair into Higher Education gets boost for five more years
2017-11-21

 Description: Prof Melanie Walker, Research chair into Higher Education gets boost for five more years Tags: Prof Melanie Walker, Research chair into Higher Education gets boost for five more years

Prof Melanie Walker, Director of the Centre for Research on
Higher Education and Development (CRHED).
Photo: Supplied

The research Chair in Higher Education and Human Development within the Centre for Research on Higher Education and Development (CRHED) at the University of the Free State has secured funding for another five years. It follows a favourable evaluation by the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) of the research project at the UFS. 

The Director of the Centre, Prof Melanie Walker, says she is delighted by the recognition of the Chair's hard work and significant productivity. “This new round of funding secures the centre and its activities for the next five years.” 

Under the auspices of the Chair, research is conducted on higher education, inequalities and social justice, and how or if universities foster the human capabilities and aspirations of students. In essence, the research studies whether higher education makes a difference to the lives of students, their families and communities. Prof Walker says the Chair's projects look at issues of access, participation and transitions into work, as well as gender, race and social class. The research uses quantitative and qualitative methods and includes a strand of participatory research projects with students.

Prof Walker says through the Chair research project, and the Centre, researchers have developed extensive international links and produced international quality research and publications. “We foster high-quality PhD graduates as a new generation of social science academics.” The Chair has in the first five years produced 10 PhDs and four master’s students. 

The project in the next five years will continue with its focus on higher education and human development research. Prof Walker says all the research efforts seek to contribute to more justice in society and universities and to contribute to debates, policy and practices in higher education and a scholarly knowledge base. 

The Research Chairs Initiative aims to improve the research capacity at public universities to produce high-quality postgraduate students, research and innovative outputs. The assessors looked at features such as the number of students the research entity had trained and how many publications the research team had produced. 

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