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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

South African citizens are yearning for a good story to tell
2014-03-13

 
Dr Sethulego Matebesi
Photo: Sonia Small

The 20 Year Review is in essence a continuation of President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address and the ‘we have a good story to tell’ narrative. The report provides a glowing picture of successes achieved over the two decades. The successes highlighted include the basic human rights enjoyed by South Africans, a marked improvement in economic growth, and the provision of social services such as health care, education and housing. And as expected, the Review is dedicated to Nelson Mandela.

The major accomplishments were made through the strategic policies of the ruling African National Congress (ANC). For example, emphasis has been on improving the lives of South Africans through pro-poor economic interventions, in building social cohesion, investing in economic infrastructure, fighting HIV and AIDS and tuberculosis, which resulted in improved health outcomes.

Generally, the assertions about ‘accomplishments’ have been made against solid evidence and are thus not debatable. What overshadows the 20 Year Review, is the story that is not being told. This is the story of a political economy marred by rampant corruption, high levels of unemployment, declining accountability, and unresponsiveness. This untold story has become the hallmark of President Zuma’s tenure. Meanwhile, the average South African citizen is still yearning for ‘a good story to tell.’

For more political comment or to speak to Dr Matebesi, please call René-Jean van der Berg at +27(0)83 645 5940.

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