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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

Eugene de Kock, FW de Klerk and forgiveness – Prof Gobodo-Madikizela’s take on gestures of reconciliation
2015-02-06

What Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Senior Research Professor in Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation Studies at the University of the Free State, found over the years talking to Eugene de Kock, was a man tortured by his past. By the deeds he has committed.

“As a result he was confronting these – not as a cog in a machine – but as a person who actually did the deed himself,” Prof Gobodo-Madikizela said during an interview [https://soundcloud.com/primediabroadcasting/dr-gobodo-on-de-kock-parole] with Pippa Hudson on Cape Talk. A man taking personal responsibility.

Against the backdrop of De Kock recently granted parole, what, then, is the nature of forgiveness?

“Often people think when they forgive, you forgive and forget. That’s not the point,” Prof Gobodo-Madikizela says. “Forgiving, in fact, I found is the wrong word. We are using forgiveness for a range of responses. What I find useful in this kind of work is to think about how people change, how people are transformed. In other words, to think about our empathic connection to people who are our former enemies.” In other words: to reach a place where both parties can see each other as fellow human beings. “Somehow when a person expresses remorse – in the way Eugene de Kock has done – it opens a door for the different kinds of relationships to that traumatic past,” Prof Gobodo-Madikizela says.

In an article for the Sunday Times, Prof Gobodo-Madikizela refers to the motion to immortalise F W de Klerk by renaming Table Bay Boulevard after him. In this piece, she clearly points out that De Klerk is not without blood on his hands. She agrees with Mayor Patricia de Lille’s support of this tribute to De Klerk, though, when De Lille refers to ‘the spirit of reconciliation that Tata Madiba believed in’.

Justice Minister Michael Masutha – who granted De Kock parole – and De Lille “are right in evoking the memory of Nelson Mandela through these important gestures of reconciliation,” Prof Gobodo-Madikizela remarks. The need to return to Nelson Mandela’s vision, she adds, remains urgent.

Read Prof Gobodo-Madikizela’s full article, published in the Sunday Times, here.
For Prof Gobodo-Madikizela’s response to Eugene de Kock, FW de Klerk and reconciliation, read here.

 

For more information or enquiries contact news@ufs.ac.za

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