Some recent strands of scholarship in the social sciences have been keen on stressing the importance of technical and scientific controversies for more democratic forms of distributing power between the actors involved. This talk will engage with this issue through the story of the few years (1989 – 1991) during which the fate of the Greifswald Nuclear Power Plant, the technological pride of the GDR, was sealed. It will tell of a moment when two different states, international nuclear regulatory commissions, nuclear operators, workers and concerned citizens entered a controversy that was truly unique. Based on ethnographic research, the story reveals the expectations of and anxieties about ‘democracy’, itself a highly debated notion during those years, of both pro- and anti-nuclear supporters from Greifswald. It is a story not about winners, but rather about shared disappointments regarding different expectations. Moreover, the controversy in question reveals several key features about the way more recent energy related debates, such as the Energiewende or the Atomausstieg have been handled in Germany.
Sergiu Novac is a PhD candidate in Sociology and Social Anthropology at the CEU in Budapest. Currently he is a CEU Junior Visiting Fellow at the IWM.