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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

Pursuit of excellence a strong focus for incoming UFS Vice-Chancellor
2017-02-06

Description: Official opening 2017 Tags: Official opening 2017

Prof Francis Petersen, the incoming
Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS,
shared his future plans for the university
with staff during the official opening.
Photo: Johan Roux

Video clip
Photo gallery

The newly elected Chairperson of the UFS Council, Mr Willem Louw, and Prof Francis Petersen, the incoming Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, were welcomed at this year’s official opening of the academic year which took place at the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) on 3 February 2017.  

Prof Petersen, who will start his tenure at the UFS on 1 April 2017, was introduced to staff by the Acting Rector, Prof Nicky Morgan. Prof Petersen shared his future plans for the UFS with staff.

His vision for the UFS spells excellence. Among others, he seeks to establish an academic culture of excellence, underpinned by the pillars of diversity and inclusivity. “It is important that there should be respect for different convictions,” he said.

“The UFS should be a place where everyone feels welcome; a strong sense of belonging is needed. Staff and students should feel that they would like to make a contribution to make the UFS a strong university,” he said.

In order to address the institutional climate issue, Prof Petersen suggests that attention be given to the curriculum as well as transformation of the research culture. Research outputs should be expanded and diversified. Inclusivity from a community engagement perspective is also needed. “The things we are good at and in which we excel should be the anchors impacting our academic enterprise,” he said.

In terms of the physical environment, he said that spaces should be welcoming for students. “It is important that we sit with students to get their views and listen to their concerns,” Prof Petersen said.

To promote transformation at the university, the UFS management team is busy working on an integrated transformation plan to be submitted to Council in June 2017. As part of this process, consultations will be held with staff and students in order to incorporate their perspectives and convictions in the plan as well.

“It is important that there should be
respect for different convictions.”

Furthermore, it is important for Prof Petersen that the Qwaqwa and South Campuses should be more integrated with the Bloemfontein Campus. “The UFS is one university with three locations. The fact that it is one university should be reflected in our actions, attentions, and thoughts. Although there are geographical differences, all three campuses should receive the same resources and should deliver the same quality outputs,” he said.

Prof Petersen ended his speech by returning to the importance of academic excellence. “With the Academic Project we always strive for excellence. To achieve academic excellence, the focus is on both academic and support staff. In order to reach our goal, all staff should produce work of superior quality,” he said.

“I am a good listener who is outcome driven, with a vision that includes: diversity, inclusivity, academic excellence, and innovation”, Prof Petersen concluded.  

 

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