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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

“You cannot find Ubuntu in a culture of dominance” – Dr Mamphela Ramphele during second Leah Tutu Gender Symposium
2015-02-28

 

From the left are: Samantha van Schalkwyk, Zanele Mbeki, Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela and Dr Mamphela Ramphele.
Photo: Johan Roux

 

Video message from Mrs Leah Tutu

Session 1: Keynote address by Dr Mamphela Ramphele
Ndiyindoda! Yes, you are a man 

Session 2: Professor Robert Morrell from the University of Cape Town
South African Gender Studies: Setting the context

Session 3: How can we engage young men to act against violence against women?
Panel discussion by Lisa Vetten (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research), Despina Learmonth (Psychology Department, University of Cape Town) and Wessel van den Berg (Sonke Gender Justice) 

Session 4: Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela
Self-defence as a strategy for women’s resistance: Reflections on the work of Susan Brison
 

Engaging men to act against gender-based violence in the Southern African context.

This was the theme of the second International Leah Tutu Symposium, hosted by the Gender Initiative of Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation Studies of the University of the Free State (UFS) on Tuesday 24 February 2015.

What does it mean to be man? How can men become active in the fight against gender-based violence? And when does one say: enough is enough? Questions like these set the tone as highly-respected individuals such as Dr Mamphela Ramphele, Prof Rob Morrell, Lisa Vetten and Andy Kawa took to the stage in the Odeion on the Bloemfontein Campus.

Leah Tutu
Unfortunately, Mrs Leah Tutu could not attend this year’s event, but she still managed to send sparks of wit and insight into the auditorium. In her video message, Mrs Tutu referred to the fact that our country has “consigned discriminatory legislation to the rubbish bin of the past”, but we continue to inhabit a divided society.

“We have a constitution and bill of rights that should have sounded the death knell for patriarchy. But women are unsafe across the land,” Mrs Tutu said. “Our freedom cost too much to be left out in the rain,” she urged.

Ndiyindoda! Yes, you are a man
In Dr Ramphele’s keynote address, “Ndiyindoda! Yes, you are a man”, she scrutinised the dominant masculinity model that has supported an alpha-male mentality for millennia. A mentality that celebrates dominance, power and control – where the winner takes it all. How then, can we expect our young boys to embrace the value system of a human rights culture?

“Gender equality is at the heart of our constitutional democratic values. Yet, our society continues to privilege and celebrate the alpha male as a masculinity model,” Dr Ramphele said. This dissonance can only produce conflict and violence.

We encourage our young men to be gentle, communicative, caring people who show their emotions. And when they do, what do we as women do? Do we encourage them?

“Or do we join those who call them wimps, moffies, sissies? How do we respond when they are ridiculed?” Dr Ramphele asked. Are we, as mothers, fathers and grandparents willing to socialise our children to acknowledge a diversity of masculinities as equally valid in our society?

The new man and the new woman of the 21st century need to be liberated from the conflict-ridden dominant masculinity model. They need to be able to shape their identity in line with a value system of human rights as enshrined in our constitution.

Perhaps Dr Ramphele’s message could be summed up by one sentence: You cannot find Ubuntu in a culture of dominance.

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