Nations as categories
An analysis of the population censuses of Bosnia-Hercegovina
We have a perception that national identity is a static phenomenon and this affects our understanding of national conflicts. This article argues that national identity is a dynamic phenomenon that changes substantially over time. Based on information on how the nationality categories in the population censuses in Bosnia-Hercegovina have changed over time, this article seeks to explore whether the official concept of nationality was in line with the concept of nationality among the Bosnian population. The article also considers whether the growing number of self-defined ‘Yugoslavs’ could be seen as an emerging ‘civic’ nation, competing for support with ‘ethnic’ nations of Muslims, Serbs and Croats. The article suggests that historically there has been a lack of coherence between the official and the popular concepts of nationality. This was primarily a result of the late official recognition of a Muslim nation. Additionally, popular concepts of self-identity have changed over time and this has resulted in partly overlapping national identities. There have been changes between censuses in the relative strength of the various national groups in Bosnia-Hercegovina. These changes are partly a result of changes in self-identity. Furthermore, the article does not find any strong evidence to support the view that a new ‘civic’ Yugoslav national identity has emerged.