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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

Shack study holds research and social upliftment opportunities
2015-02-10

Photo: Stephen Collett

When Prof Basie Verster, retired head of the Department of Quantity Surveying at the University of the Free State (UFS), initiated an alternative form of housing for Johannes - one of his employees - a decision was made to base research on this initiative. This research project in Grasslands, Heidedal focused on the cost and energy efficiency of green and/or sustainable shacks.

Esti Jacobs from the Department of Quantity Surveying, together with an honours student in Quantity Surveying, a master’s student in Architecture, and young professionals at Verster Berry, helped with the project.

The physical goals of the project were to create a structure that is environmentally friendly, and maintains a comfortable interior climate in winter and summer, as well as being cost-effective to erect. The structure also had to be socially acceptable to the family and the community.

“The intention was to make a positive contribution to the community and to initiate social upliftment through this project. Structures such as the ‘green shack’ may serve as an intermediate step to future housing possibilities, since these structures are relatively primitive, but have economic value and could be marketable,” she said.

Esti explains the structure of the building, which consists of gum poles and South African pine bearers, with a timber roof and internal cement block flooring. The building is clad with corrugated iron and has a corrugated iron roof finish. Additional green elements added to the structure were internal Nutec cladding, glasswool insulation in walls, internal gypsum ceiling boards with ‘Think Pink’ insulation, internal dividing wall and door, polystyrene in the floors, and tint on the windows. A small solar panel for limited electricity use (one or two lights and electricity to charge a cellphone) and a Jojo water tank for household consumption by the inhabitants were also installed.

Esti said: “Phase one of the research has been completed. This phase consisted of an investigation into the cost of an alternative form of housing structure (comparing traditional shacks with the planned structure) as well as the construction process of the physical housing structure.

“Phase two of the research, commencing in February 2015, will last for two to three years. This phase will include the installation of temperature and relative humidity logging devices inside the existing traditional shack and the new green shack. The logs will be regularly monitored by the UFS Department of Quantity Surveying and Construction Management.

These data will enable the researchers to measure the differences in comfort levels inside the two different structures. The data, together with other information such as building materials and methods, are then processed by software programs. Through the simulation of different environments, building materials, and alternate forms of energy, software models can be used to come up with conclusions regarding more energy-friendly building materials and methods. This knowledge can be used to improve comfort levels within smaller, low-cost housing units.

The UFS will be working with Prof Jeff Ramsdell of the Appalachian State University in the USA and his team on the second phase of the project.

“This research project is ongoing and will be completed only in a few years’ time,” said Esti.

The results of the research will be published in accredited journals or at international conferences.

 

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

 

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