Accepted Paper:

Census and sensibilities in Sarajevo: but what are you really?  


Fran Markowitz (Ben Gurion University)

Paper short abstract:

Focusing on the question, 'but what are you really?' the paper claims that Bosnia's first census appears more as a contested arena of new knowledge production than a transparent measure of the 'authentic' ethnic groups/constituent nations of the new, shaky state.

Paper long abstract:

Critically interrogating its "facts", this ethnography of Bosnia's first postwar census examines how state-simplified population categories and the more complex, experientially based understandings of ethnically marked and marking actors are dialectically locked in an ongoing struggle. The 2002 census results make a strong demographic case in favor of the 1995 decisions taken in Dayton to split Bosnia into two not-quite equal territorial entities (the Federation, 51% and the Serbian Republic, 49%) and three incommensurable constituent nations. It also confirms social scientists' findings that ethnic segregation now characterizes regions that were once multi-ethnic and multi-confessional. But its major features, in particular the reduction of ethnicity choices to three named categories from 21, and its refusal to recognize multiple belongings or hybrid identities demand analysis as new interpretations of uncertain belongings that have been shaped into certain statistical results. Following Aihwa Ong's (1996:738) designation of cultural citizenship as "a dual process of self-making and being made by the state," fieldwork data from Sarajevo in 2002 and 2004 show that alongside the new state-mandated trinational scheme, citizens are also enacting a hybrid Bosnia and challenging the certainty of that scheme. In focusing on the question, "But what are you really?" the paper claims that in its attempt to simplify and keep at peace what had been a mixed (-up), uncertain population, the census and its sensibilities appear more as a contested arena of new knowledge production than a transparent demographic measure of the "authentic" ethnic groups that are declared as the constituent nations of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Panel W058
Moral journeys: manifestations of certainty and uncertainty across Europe