To be a Bosniak or to be a citizen? Bosnia and Herzegovina’s 2013 census as an election

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Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first post-war population census, held in 2013, was accompanied by campaigns associated with each of the country’s three main ethnic groups, which sought to maximise their share of the recorded population. These campaigns were challenged by a rival ‘civic’ campaign that instead stressed the right to freedom of self-identification, however. This article compares the aims, methods and framings used by this civic campaign with those of the most prominent of the ‘ethnic’ campaigns – that of Bosniak ethnic entrepreneurs. It demonstrates that the two campaigns were each motivated by a combination of symbolic motives, centred on recognition and highlighting discrimination, and instrumental motives relating to the country’s power-sharing institutions. The limited success of the civic campaign in countering the messages of its rival, ethnic campaigns demonstrates the difficulties that civic movements face in mobilising citizens in consociational democracies such as BiH.

Bibliographic note

Cooley, L. (2019) To be a Bosniak or to be a citizen? Bosnia and Herzegovina's 2013 census as an election. Nations and Nationalism,


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1065-1086
Number of pages22
JournalNations and Nationalism
Issue number3
Early online date18 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • Balkans, civic nationalism, consociationalism, demography, ethnic nationalism