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Falling from Normalcy? Decolonisation of Museums, Science Centres, and Science Communication

From the book Race and Sociocultural Inclusion in Science Communication

  • Mohamed Belhorma


Communication plays a critical role in the hegemonic gaze upon colonised cultures in museums. This chapter aims to present some of the Eurocentric narratives within science communication and cultural interpretation through the lens of normalcy and normative gaze. The chapter will highlight salient theories that explain this sense of normalcy that lulls science communicators into being comfortable with the absence of Indigenous epistemological content in displays or interpretations. This normalcy has been created in part by the cultural imperialism of colonisation. The constant application of latent dominance created a new normal that conveys the superiority of the coloniser. It also entails a sense of estrangement from such normalcy by the very groups that are excluded through its wholesale application – alienation in the cultural context such as isolation from any positive learning, not being a reference, and very often being the embodiment of everything that opposes normalcy. The colonised lack access to their heritage and receive the narrative of their own heritage from a coloniser’s point of view. The decolonial process of detaching science communication from dominant normativity has been made challenging by its very nature – normativity as established by cultural imperialism and defined as comfortable and unquestioned (Wekker, 2016). Often, it is accompanied by a feeling of innocence that eases detachment (Wekker, 2016). Racial grammar (Said, 1993) explains how the centrality of Western culture deeply structures science communication, which in turn organises and hierarchises knowledge to create an ‘epistemology of ignorance’ (Mills, 1997) that generates a supremacist narrative within science communication and cultural interpretation. The chapter concludes with the recommendation that museums, science centres, and science communicators in the West should display and acknowledge science from other civilisations and their corresponding epistemic traditions and worldviews without framing them from the dominant normalcy, as a crucial evolution towards decolonisation and transformation in these institutions and the field.


science centresmuseumsmuseologydecolonisationnormativity
© Bristol University Press 2023, excluding Chapter 12 © Tibisay Sankatsing Nava, Roxanne-Liana Francisca, Krista T. Oplaat, and Tadzio Bervoets
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