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Life on the Stargazing Hill: Belgrade Astronomical Observatory at the Intersection of Gender, Science and Culture in Post-Socialist Serbia

  • Author / Creator
    Uzelac, Mirjana
  • This thesis is a result of ethnographic research conducted at the Belgrade Astronomical Observatory in 2015-2018 period, among Serbian astronomers and astrophysicists. The thesis is threefold: it focuses on the intersection of knowledge production, post-socialism and gender issues in today’s Serbia. These three topics were used as anchors for examining the realities of work and life of Serbian scientists. The research is grounded in concepts of epistemic cultures and knowledge cultures used for analyzing scientific practice and scientists’ work at the Belgrade Astronomical Observatory. Epistemic culture(s) present at the AOB are shaped by two factors: the demands of the discipline (epistemic cultures of international astrophysics communities) and the realities of post-socialism. In this thesis, I describe the main practices, attitudes and relationships that exist in Serbian astrophysics. I treat “epistemic culture” of the Belgrade Astronomical Observatory in terms of performing science in the specific historical and political circumstances: the realities of post-socialist Serbia and the legacy of socialist Yugoslavia. Special attention is given to the issue of gender and women in science, and a seeming paradox of having a gender balance but still experiencing a strong “glass ceiling” effect at the Observatory. In this thesis, I argue that the Observatory serves as a protective bubble that shields researchers from the chaotic socio-political circumstances of contemporary Serbia. Despite modest funds and other hardships, scientists at the Observatory enjoy a relative security in terms of employment and social benefits, which can be attributed to the legacy of socialism. This is particularly important for female researchers, who can realize themselves as both mothers and scientists. Furthermore, the lack of government’s care for sciences enables researchers to pursue topics and questions they find important, without any control from the government or funding agencies. This freedom results in a community that enjoys many of Polanyi’s ideals of the republic of science: the Observatory is a place where researchers can focus on their intellectual pursuits and perform “pure science for science’s sake”.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2020
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/r3-ssbt-6e24
  • License
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