The Census Categorization of Ethnic Identity: Between Theoretical Comprehensions and Statistical Practice

Main Article Content

Aleksandar Knežević
Nevena Radić


Theoretical debates about ethnic identity during the second half of the 20th century did not just attract attention of academic circles, but they influenced creation of political discourse which determined public life in almost every multinational society, regardless the level of socio-economic development. In recent decades, many theories about ethnic identity have emerged, especially those about ethnicity as a relatively new concept, which caused a great deal of controversy that has been ongoing since the 1960s. Modern demography deals with problems of great social importance, especially when it comes to anthropological, social and political demography, whose results often take lead in the modern political debate. In that sense, a lot of theoretical approaches tried to emphasize the decline of importance of traditional elements of ethnic identity, even their disappearance in favor of supranational concepts, over the past more than half a century. However, in practice, the opposite processes are constantly repeating and the awareness of belonging to certain ethnic group, not only remained the important part of social life, but its significance rapidly grew in certain periods and societies. Ethnic and social pluralism of modern societies, together with massive migration flows, have initiated the review of sustainability, not only the traditional definitions of ethnic identity, but also the various supranational concepts which have mostly emerged from ethnic identification and legal nationality. The fear that ethno-cultural pluralism will have negative effects on ethno-demographic differentiation increased the need for quantitative researches of demographic characteristics of population towards ethnic marks, also for reviewing of methodological solutions of ethno-statistic evidence, starting from definitions, categorizations and statistic classification, as far as the ways of collecting and publishing the data. In that sense the censuses are considered as a base of ethno-demographic studies of French and Serbian population, in which different theoretical concepts of ethnic identity created two different approaches to ethno-statistic census process. In every Serbian census from the middle of the 19th century till today central topics were the questions about static ethno-cultural categories of religion and about mother tongue, while the question about ethnicity was asked in each and every census taken after Second World War. On the other hand, although it has the longest census tradition in Europe, the official ethno-statistic evidence of population in France has been for a long time determined by constant rejection of ethnic categorization and by the absence of questions about primary ethnic marks of population. Instead, the supranational concept of legal nationality has become the central spot while, as a feature of political integration of immigrants in a census, the question about state of birth starts to appear. The main dilemma regarding relations between prevailing theoretical concepts of ethnic identity and the official statistic practice based on Serbian and French models, still remains. Therefore, this paper shows two-way influence of ethno-statistic categorization and the real ethnic structure, and opens a discussion whether the ethnic identities have been defined by statistics or the ethnic identity is the one which defines the official statistics.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Knežević, A., & Radić, N. (2016). The Census Categorization of Ethnic Identity: Between Theoretical Comprehensions and Statistical Practice. Stanovnistvo, 54(2), 59–81.


BANTON, M. (1983). Racial and Ethnic Competition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

BASHAM, R. & DE GROOT, D. (1977). Current approaches to the anthropology of urban and complex societies. American Anthropologist 79(2): 414‒440.

BLUM, A. (2002). Resistance to identity categorization in France. In I.D. Kertzer & D. Arel (Eds.), Census and Identity. The Politics of Race, Ethnicity, and Language in National Censuses (pp. 121‒147). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

BRASS, P. (1991). Ethnicity and Nationalism. Theory and Comparation. London: Sage Publications.

CHOPIN, I., FARKAS, L. & GERMAINE, C. (2014). Ethnic Origin and Disability Data Collection in Europe: Measuring Inequality – Combating Discrimination. New York: Open Society Foundations.

COLEMAN, D. (2012). The Changing Face of Europe. In A. J. Goldstone, P. E. Kaufmann & M. Duffy Toft (Eds.), Political Demography. How Population Changes Are Reshaping International Security and National Politics. New York: Oxford University Press.

ĐURIĆ, V., TANASKOVIĆ, D., VUKMIROVIĆ, D. & LAĐEVIĆ, P. (2014). Etnokonfesionalni i jezički mozaik Srbije. Beograd: Republički zavod za statistiku Srbije.

GEERTZ, C. (1963). The Integrative Revolution. Primordial Sentiments and Civil Politics in the New States. Old Societies, New States. New York: The Free Press.

GILLNER, E. (1983). Nationes and Nationalism. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

GLAZER, N. & MOYNIHAN, D. (1975). Ethnicity, Theory and Experience. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

HAYDEN, R. (1993). Constitutional Nationalism in the Formerly Yugoslav Republics. Washington: The University of Pittsburgh.

KERTZER, I. D. & AREL, D. (2002). Census, identity formation, and the struggle for political power. In I. D. Kertzer & D. Arel (Eds.), Census and Identity. The Politics of Race, Ethnicity, and Language in National Censuses (pp. 1‒42). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

KNEŽEVIĆ, A. (2007). Uticaj primene subjektivnog kriterijuma kao zvaničnog principa nacionalne identifikacije u popisima stanovništva na ispoljavanje romskog etničkog identiteta u Srbiji. Glasnik srpskog geografskog društva 87(1): 79‒88.

KNEŽEVIĆ, A. (2011). Metodološki problemi etnostatističke evidencije i etno-demografskih proučavanja stanovništva Srbije. Demografija 8: 129‒144.

KNEŽEVIĆ, A. (2012). Slovenians in Serbia. A Contribution to the Ethno-demographic Study. Annales ‒ Series Historia et Sociologia 22(1): 171‒186.

MRĐEN, S. (2002). Narodnost u popisima. Promjenljiva i nestalna kategorija. Stanovništvo 40(1‒4): 77‒103.

PETIT, V. (2013). Counting Populations, Understanding Societies ‒ Towards an Interpretative Demography. Dordrecht, Heidelberg, New York, London: Springer.

PETROVIĆ, E. (1989). Teorijske pretpostavke istraživanja etničkog identiteta. Zbornik radova Etnografskog instituta 20: 9‒14.

POUTIGNAT, P. & STREIFF-FENART, J. (1995). Theories de l`ethnicite. Paris: Presses universitaries de France.

PETROVIĆ, R. (1983). Dugoročne promene etničke strukture u SR Srbiji. Zbornik Filozofskog fakulteta 13(2): 132‒152.

RADOVANOVIĆ, S. (1995). Etnička struktura i maternji jezik stanovništva. Stanovništvo i domaćinstva SR Jugoslavije prema popisu 1991. Stanovništvo 47(1‒4): 185-216.

RADOVANOVIĆ, S. (1996). Mogućnost korišćenja statističke građe za analizu etnografskih i etnodemografskih procesa. Zbornik radova Geografskog instituta „Jovan Cvijić“ 46: 265‒273.

RADOVANOVIĆ, S. (2005). Dva veka popisne statistike u Srbiji. Demografija 2: 33-43.

RADOVANOVIĆ, S. (2007). Etnička struktura Kraljevine Jugoslavije u kontekstu nacionalne politike jugoslovenstva. Demografija 4: 129‒140.

RADOVANOVIĆ, S. & RADOVANOVIĆ, M. (1998). Muslimani u popisu stanovništva SR Jugoslavije 2001 ‒ predlog za klasifikaciju nacionalnosti. Statističar 22: 9‒18.

RIBIĆ, V. (2007). Srpski nacionalizam na kraju XX veka. U S. Nedeljković (ur.) Antropologija savremenosti, knj. 23 (str. 151‒171). Beograd: Etnološka biblioteka, Srpski geneaološki centar: Odeljenje za etnologiju i antropologiju Filozofskog fakulteta Univerziteta u Beogradu.

SARNA, D. (1978). From Immigrants to Ethnics: Toward a New Theory of “Ethnicization”. Ethnicity 5: 370‒378.

SHILS, E. (1957). Primordial, personal, sacred and civil ties. British Journal of Sociology 8: 13‒147.

SIMON, P. (2007). ‘Ethnic’ statistics and data protection in the Council of Europe countries. Thematic report of the “European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)”. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.

SIMON, P. (2014). The Republican model: Myths of the governance of immigration and integration. In J. Hollifield, P. Orrenius, P. Martin (Eds.), Controlling immigration: A global perspective (pp. 72‒79). Stanford: Stanford University Press.

SIMON, P., PICHÉ, V. & GAGNON, A. (Eds.) (2015). Social Statistics and Ethnic Diversity. Cross-National Perspectives in Classifications and Identity Politics. Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht, London:

SIMON, S. (1999). Nationality and origins in French statistics: Ambiguous cate-gories. Population, an English Selection 11(1): 193–219.

SCHNAPPER, D. (2007). Qu’est-ce que l’intégration? Paris: Gallimard.

UNITED NATIONS (2006). Recommendations for the 2010 Censuses of Population and Housing. Conference of European Statisticians. New York, Geneva: United Nations.

VAN DEN BERGHE, P. (1981). The Ethnic Phenomenon. Conneticut: Greenwood press.

VLAHOVIĆ, P. (1982). Etnološki pristup proučavanju etnogeneze. Etnološke sveske 4: 58–72

VLAHOVIĆ, P. (1992). Etnos i etnogeneza u etnologiji – od lokalne zajednice do savremenih naroda i nacija. Etnos, etnogeneza i narodna kultura. Glasnik Etnografskog instituta SANU 41: 93–106.

VUKANOVIĆ, T. (1974). Etnogeneza Južnih Slovena. Vranje: Vranjski glasnik X.

YANCEY, W., ERICKSEN, E. & JULIANI, R. (1976). Emergent Ethnicity: A Review and Reformulation. American Sociological Association 41(3).

YANG, P. (2000). Ethnic Studies: Issues and Approaches. New York: State University of New York Press.