Anida Sokol: Between Ethnic and Civic Nationalism Census and Nation Building in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The aim of this paper is to illustrate ethno-national and civic narratives through the analysis of propaganda campaigns during the Census of 2013 in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The first post-war systematic enumeration of the country’s population was highly politicized and contested and was preceded by propaganda campaigns by all the three ethno-national groups that called on people to identify themselves as Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats, together with the religious affiliation and mother tongue that these categories entail. On the other hand, civil society groups advocated a civic identity, in protest against ethno-national divisions in the country and with the aim to alter the constitution, which is based on ethnicity that gives privileges to specific groups.
Particularly visible and aggressive were campaigns by the Bosniak religious and political groups that included elements of the Bosniak nation-building narrative and specifically focused on the importance of the census, since it was the first time that Bosniaks could self-identify as such. According to this narrative, the division of the Bosnian Muslims into Bosniaks, Bosnian and Herzegovinians, and Muslims was an “auto-genocide” and a danger to the future integrity of the country. Contrarily, civil society groups used human rights discourse and focused on the discrimination of the category of Others. They did not propagate a specific self-identification, but called on people to identify unconstitutionally with the aim to change the political system of the country.