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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

Prisca Odero awarded ASA Presidential Fellowship
2015-02-17

Dr Odero (on the right) pictured with Suzanne Baazet, ASA Executive Director at the Awards Ceremony.

Dr Prisca Odero, a Centre for Africa Studies (CAS) fellow, received the African Studies Association (ASA) Presidential Fellow award in Indianapolis, USA, recently.

She was nominated for ASA by Dr Cyril Obi from the Social Science Research Council (New York), and was selected competitively, based on her PhD thesis and applied research work in rural development in Africa. Odero obtained her PhD in Africa Studies from the UFS at the July 2014 Graduation Ceremony.

On 22 November 2014, Dr Odero gave a public lecture at the Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. The event was hosted by the Political Science Department at the College.

Her paper, titled Sources and role of social capital in smallholder agricultural production: The value of membership of community groups to Zimbabwe rural livelihoods, sought to address the question of whether social capital contributed to the resilience of rural households in the face of economic difficulties and food security challenges. Dr Odero argued that the link between social capital and agricultural production is manifest in the ways in which farmers use social capital derived from membership of groups to alleviate agricultural production challenges.

Smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe, who face constraints in acquiring the necessary resources for production because of failing markets and reduced agri-industry productive capacity, employ a range of methods to deal with these challenges.  She presented an analysis of data collected through focus group discussions with representative groups and through a household survey.

Dr Odero’s research forms part of a book project. While books on agricultural development knowledge do exist, more studies analysing issues and offering solutions from an African perspective would help to address the gap in African knowledge production.

 

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

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