Accepted Paper:

Science as a Shield: The Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade  

Author:

Mirjana Uzelac (University of Alberta )

Paper short abstract:

The paper examines science communication in the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade and the way it reflects politics in post-socialist Serbia. The paper demonstrates how perceived objectivity of science can be used as a shield against controversy and opposing political views.

Paper long abstract:

Nikola Tesla is a significant figure of national pride in post-socialist Serbia, which influences the ways his scientific contributions are contextualized. The paper uses ethnographic method to examine science communication in Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade.

Serbian public is mainly interested in two key topics about Tesla: his ethnic origin, the importance of his inventions for the world, and the role of Tesla as a figure of national pride. However, these issues are considered to be controversial and politically charged, so the Museum's staff chooses to ignore them. Instead, the staff focuses on topics deemed safe, such as basic engineering principles and science behind Tesla's inventions. I argue that the Museum's staff uses science and technology as a shield against controversy and as a way to keep authority and respectability. This emphasis on scientific authority and assumed objectivity of scientific facts allows the Museum to avoid controversies and remain "neutral" and "apolitical" in the eyes of the public.

The paper will offer a better understanding of communication between science museums and public in the post-Yugoslav Serbia. This is particularly important in the context of the rise of nationalism and Serbia's perceived place between the East and the West. The topic relates directly to issues of science communication in museums and examines the role of science in nationalism and anti-nationalism. The case of Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade demonstrates how scientific contributions and perceived objectivity of science can be used as a shield against controversy and opposing political views.

Panel T032
Science Communication