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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 mourns the death of a great linguist and educationalist
2012-08-29

He was one of the founders of the National Liberation Front. He was convicted of conspiracy to commit sabotage in 1964 and was sent to Robben Island for 10 years. During his incarceration, he taught history to fellow prisoners.

According to SA History Online, Alexander wrote of his time in prison: "The 'University of Robben Island' was one of the best universities in the country. It also showed me that you don't need professors.”

He also devoted most of his professional life to defend and preserve multilingualism in the post-apartheid South Africa and has become one of the major advocates of linguistic diversity.

During a recent visit to the UFS where he took part in a Critical Conversation at the Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice, Dr Alexander said that a multilingual state and culture could lead to more tolerance in South Africa.

In a tribute to Dr Alexander, Prof. Jonathan Jansen, UFS Vice-Chancellor and Rector, said Dr Alexander was an incorruptible, a revolutionary who remained true to his core values despite the materialistic excesses of former struggle heroes.

“He taught me many things, one of which was that Afrikaans is and can be a language of liberation and a vehicle for reconciliation. He took his methodology for language learning into the townships, and altered countless lives in the process. South Africa has lost a great scholar, a principled activist, a generous humanitarian and a formidable intellect; the last of the true revolutionaries.”

 

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