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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

Tough future if nothing changes in Africa
2015-02-20

 

The Department of Political Studies and Governance at the UFS recently hosted a workshop with the Osaka School for International Public Policy and the Southern African Centre for Collaboration in Peace and Security Studies.

The workshop, which was held on Thursday 12 February, had the theme of Perspectives on African Peace and Security. During workshop sessions, thoughts and views on peace and security were discussed for both African and South African circumstances. This was the fourth year of this joint workshop at the UFS.

Prof Hussein Solomon from the Department of Political Studies and Governance at the UFS shared some notes:

“In terms of South Africa, the fact that only 11% of South Africans have a post-school education holds negative prospects for us attaining a so-called ‘knowledge economy’”, says Prof Solomon.

“This also means that unemployment will continue to remain high since, in certain key areas, the South African economy is quite sophisticated, and needs a sophisticated labour force. Therefore, high unemployment translates into further social unrest, especially if one considers that youth unemployment is approaching 50%.”
 
Moving to broader issues in Africa, Solomon states that governance remains a challenge.

“There is a need to move away from Eurocentric forms of governance to more hybrid forms, implementing a mix of western forms of governance alongside more traditional forms.”

“Otherwise, the probability of conflict remains high as we look into the future. The possibility of water wars between African states is distinct.”

“Terrorism too will be with us for some time to come, with three terrorist attacks per day in Africa. Making matters worse, whether it is conflict over water or terrorist atrocities, is the African Union’s inability to resolve these issues. It simply does not have the capacity”, says Solomon.

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