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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

Statement on protest at the UFS
2005-03-04

Following a protest by student and non-student organisations today, the management of the University of the Free State (UFS) would like to place the following facts on record:

1. There is a well-documented process underway to further transform the UFS. At the official opening of the UFS on 4 February 2005 , the Rector and Vice-chancellor, Prof Frederick Fourie, announced that the UFS would draft a comprehensive Transformation Plan to guide the next phase of transformation at the institution.

The UFS appeals to student formations, staff associations, trade unions and other role-players to make a constructive input into this Transformation Plan.

The UFS management has been - and always will be - willing to engage with role-players and is prepared to do so even after today’s protest.

2. There is thus no regulation or policy prescription which separates students in hostels according to race.

The reality is that students exercise their freedom of choice as to which hostel they wish to be placed in. This was agreed upon by black and white students in 1997/8.

However, the unintended consequence and practice of this hostel placement policy has been that students themselves have tended to choose to stay in hostels which have over time become black hostels and white hostels.

This is a matter of concern for the management of the UFS as such a situation does not promote interaction across language, cultural and socio-economic groupings of students.

This matter is receiving attention and an intensive consultative process, which will include students, will be launched to review this policy.

The management is convinced that such interaction will enhance the learning experience of all students and sensitise them to the reality of a multicultural South Africa and a multicultural world.

3. No student organisation has been banned from operating at any of the three campuses of the UFS.

In the past few weeks, SASCO, the Young Communist League and the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) have held meetings on all three campuses, namely the Qwaqwa campus, the Vista campus and the main campus.

There are also regular interactions between top management and the leadership of SASCO and the ANCYL on campus.

In fact, the UFS upholds the right of students and staff to associate freely and to organise themselves as they see fit.

The UFS also upholds the rights of staff and students to engage in legal and peaceful protests.

The management however remains committed to discussing issues that affect staff and students in a constructive manner and appeals to student organisations in this case to engage with management.

4. The issues of registration, fees, debt and financial aid are continually monitored, and interventions to assist students are made regularly. To assist as far as possible those academically deserving students who face financial difficulties, the UFS management has put in place a structure called the Monitoring committee that includes management and student representatives.

The purpose of the Monitoring Committee is to review the cases of individual students to determine how best they can be assisted.

This applies to the Qwaqwa campus, the Vista campus and the main campus.

It is generally the case that students who perform academically will not have any difficulty in obtaining financial assistance. However, according to the requirements of National Student Financial Scheme, students who perform poorly will have difficulty in obtaining such assistance.

5. With regard to student governance, the process to institute an inclusive Central Student Representative Council (SRC), on which all three campuses will be equitably represented, was launched in July 2004, and a preliminary constitution has just been drafted. At the same time an inclusive process to review certain elements of the constitution of the main campus SRC was initiated at the end of 2004. This process, which includes all relevant student organisations and structures, is planned to produce an outcome within the next couple of months.

6. There is no policy at the UFS that is based on racism or that discriminates on the basis of the race of students and staff.

As part of the building of a new institutional culture within the broader transformation process, the UFS management is determined to eradicate all elements of racism that may occur on its campuses, and has already instituted inclusive forums on campus to discuss the issue of values and principles for a non-racial university.

Issued by: Mr Anton Fisher
Director: Strategic Communication
Cell: 072 207 8334
Tel: (051) 401-2749
4 March 2005

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