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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

Final lecture in Darwin series presented at the UFS
2010-02-23

At the lecture were, from the left: Prof. Terence McCarthy, Prof. Jo van As, Chairperson of the Darwin 200 Committee and Head of the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the UFS, Prof. Bruce Rubidge, Elsabe Brits, journalist at Die Burger and Esther van der Westhuizen, presenter on Groen.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs


The University of the Free State (UFS), in collaboration with the Central University of Technology, Free State (CUT) and The National Museum in Bloemfontein recently hosted the final lecture on the Charles Darwin lecture series entitled “The story of life and survival”.

The lecture was presented by Prof. Bruce Rubidge, the Director of the Bernard Price Institute for Paleontological Research at Wits University and Prof. Terence McCarthy, a Professor of Mineral Geochemistry at Wits and Head of the Department of Geology. Proff. Rubidge and McCarthy are co-authors of the book The Story of Life on Earth.

Their lecture with the topic “Trends in evolution and their bearing on the future of humankind” dealt with the future of evolution. According to Prof. Rubidge, ninety-nine percent of the species that have ever lived are extinct. “We are living in a time of mass extinction. Fifty thousand species become extinct annually,” he said.

Prof. McCarthy discussed many factors that can result in mankind’s extinction today. The impact of climate change, big volcanic eruptions, a comet or asteroid hitting earth, tsunamis and the collapsing of sea islands are some of the factors Prof. McCarthy believes could cause great catastrophe’s on earth.

“We live on the brink of this all the time,” he said.

Prof. McCarthy also believes that we can avoid these catastrophes. By allowing only one child per family we can shrink the global population with 30% per generation. This is doable in a short time span,” he said.

Other ideas he had on saving mankind from getting extinct is to create extensive ecological reserves on land but especially in the ocean, to decentralise everything, to change to renewable energy, to recycle resources and to be vigilant in doing this.

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