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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

Prof. Iain Benson delivers inaugural lecture in UFS's Faculty of Law
2010-10-27

Prof. Shaun de Freitas (left) of the Faculty of Law at the UFS and Prof. Iain Benson.

Prof. Iain T. Benson delivered his inaugural address as Professor Extraordinary in the Department of Constitutional Law and Philosophy of Law in the Faculty of Law at University of the Free State (UFS) faculty last week.

Originally hailing from Canada and currently residing with his family in France, Prof. Benson is an academic with a wealth of experience and expertise in the field of law, especially with regard to the right of conscience and religion. His achievements number many, including being a Senior Associate Counsel at one of Canada’s leading law firms, Miller Thompson LLP; and serving on the Founding Board of the Global Centre for Pluralism. 

Apart from his work on leading cases in the United Kingdom and Ireland, Prof. Benson also has strong ties with the law in South Africa. He is part of the Continuity Committee that is responsible for the major undertaking of drawing up the South African Charter of Religious Rights and Freedoms in cooperation with all the major religions in South Africa which, when completed, will be the first use of Section 234 of the South African Constitution.

The title of the inaugural lecture was Living together with Disagreements and the Limits of the Law, which tackled various conscientious and topical issues regarding the complex relationships between the law and religions. Starting off the lecture, Prof. Benson recalled that living together with disagreement is a necessary achievement in free and democratic societies and that differences of belief and opinion should not be resolved by force acceptance of a “one-size fits all” model. Mentioning religion and same-sex marriages, Prof. Benson held these up as issues which reasonable people may disagree on and should hence be respected by the public sphere that is girded round by the law. 

Quoting Sophocles’ Antigone, Prof. Benson noted that tensions between the so-called divine and imminent or state laws as in a non-theocratic state have always been with us. He stressed the importance of a wide respect by the law for civic associations in addition to but particularly in relation to religion which guides citizens views about wrong and right beyond matters that are regulated by law.
 

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