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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 academic discusses Dutch, Afrikaans and African languages
2006-05-22

During the colloquium presented in Belgium by the Province Antwerp were from the left Prof Pol Cuvelier (University of Antwerp), Prof Theo du Plessis (Director: Unit for Language Management at the UFS), Mr Ludo Helsen (Permanent Deputy: Province of Antwerp) and Mr Jean-Pierre Rondas (Flemish radio journalist).

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UFS academic discusses Dutch, Afrikaans and African languages at international conference

Prof Theo du Plessis, Director of the Unit for Language Management at the University of the Free State (UFS), was the main speaker at a colloquium titled “Routes:  Where to now? - Een traject van het Nederlands naar het Afrikaans en de Afrikatalen”, which was recently presented by the Province Antwerp in Belgium.

 The aim of the colloquium was to discuss the future cooperation in the field of language between the Province Antwerp and South Africa. 

 The Province Antwerp is already involved with projects in South Africa.  One of these projects is the Multilingual Information Development Programme (MIDP), a partnership project between the UFS and the Free State Province that is mainly funded by the Province Antwerp. 

 The project has been running since 1999 and was recently in the news with the presentation of a symposium on multilingualism and exclusion on the Main Campus of the UFS.  It is hoped that the Routes colloquium will indicate new stages on which can be added to the already successful cooperation in the area of language.

 Prof Du Plessis’s presentation titled “Nederlands, Afrikaans en die Afrikatale – kan samewerking slaag? Die geval MIDP in die Vrystaat”, investigated the successes that have been made with the MIDP.  He discussed two possible approaches to cooperation in the areas of language, that of a sentimentalistic  approach against an instrumentalistic approach. 

Cooperation in the first approach makes language the aim.  In the second approach language is used as a means to a greater aim.  According to Prof du Plessis the first approach is driven by a romantisised idea about the relation between the Flemish and Afrikaans speaking people, which may unfortunately polarise the position of Afrikaans in South Africa even further.

 He argues that, given the time that we are in, the second approach will deliver more constructive results as language can among others be used for to further  democracy in South Africa.   This can happen by cooperation in the institutionalising of multilingualism in our society.  The more languages are used in education, law and government administration, the more we can be assured a successful democracy.

 The Routes colloquium was facilitated by the well-known Flemish radio journalist, Jean-Pierre Rondas. About twenty South African and Flemish language specialists took part in the colloquium.  Dr Fritz Kok, outgoing chief executive officer of the ATKV took part in the opening ceremony and Dr Neville Alexander from the University of Cape Town and well-known activist for multilingualism in South Africa was also one of the main speakers.

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