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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

UFS academics to submit proposal on innovative research for smallholder agriculture
2009-08-04

 
Here are, from the left: Dr Bennie Grové, Department of Agricultural Economics; Prof. Schalk Louw, Department of Zoology and Entomology; Prof. Bland; Prof. Swart; and Prof. André Pelser, Department of Sociology.
Photo: Arthur Johnson


Prof. Wijnand Swart, Director of the Strategic Research Cluster (Technologies for sustainable crop industries in semi-arid regions) at the University of the Free State (UFS) recently hosted Prof. William (Bill) Bland, Chairperson of the Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA. Prof. Bland’s visit to the UFS was linked to an initiative by Prof. Swart to forge closer links with this university by signing a Memorandum of Understanding in the near future.

Opportunities for collaborative research were discussed with various academics at the UFS, including Prof. Teuns Verschoor, Vice-Rector: Academic Operations, and Prof. Aldo Stroebel, Director: Internationalisation. A definite outcome of these talks is that six researchers from the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, in collaboration with Prof. Bland and scientists from the Universities of Makerere and Umutara in Uganda and Rwanda respectively, will submit a joint proposal for a research programme, supported by the National Science Foundation of the USA and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The objective of this programme, referred to as the BREAD programme (Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development), is to support innovative scientific research designed to address constraints to smallholder agriculture in the developing world. Prof. Bland also delivered a lecture in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences entitled, Holon Agroecology: A Conceptual Framework for a New Agricultural Expertise. The lecture was followed by a multi-disciplinary panel discussion.
 

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