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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

Female-headed households more prone to economic strains due to rainfall variations
2016-02-02

Description: Martin Flatø  Tags: Martin Flatø

Martin Flatø
Photo: University of Oslo press

Research shows that a total of 41 % of South African (SA) households are led by women, and these households are twice as likely to be poor compared to other households.

Martin Flatø spent three months at University of the Free State (UFS), researching how female-headed households in our country are affected by variations in rainfall, which cause crop failures with their implications for rural economies.

He is a PhD student from the University of Oslo in Norway who was part of the 2014/15 Southern African Young Scientists Summer Programme (SA-YSSP) that was hosted by the UFS last year.

Flatø formed part of a group of international scholars who conducted research on how families led by females are affected by climate change. The group focused on the implications of the weather on crop failures and rural economies. Gender and household structures were studied to determine ways in which they are affected by economic fluctuations.
 
The research group’s preliminary findings indicate that female-headed households are more vulnerable to rainfall variation than households where there are adult residents or workers of both genders.

In view of the current water shortage in the Free State, as well as scientists’ projections that our country will be among the regions hardest hit by climate change in terms of a surge in temperature, Flatø’s collaborative research has substantial relevance.|

Grooming first class scientists
The SA-YSSP is a joint initiative of South African National Research Foundation and the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). Its main aim is tackling challenges faced by the world at large and South Africa in particular.

Out of 24 PhD students from 18 countries and various academic disciplines, Flatø emerged as one of only three scholars to be awarded the Systems Analysis Scholarships for his outstanding science at the end of the programme.

World class mentorship
Prof André Pelser and Dr Raya Muttarak were Flatø’s SA-YSSP supervisors. Prof Pelser, of the UFS Department of Sociology, is a leading academic on population processes, and how they relate to local environmental issues in South Africa. Dr Muttarak is a research scholar at IIASA in Austria.

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