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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 3.129

Collectivity, census and identity politics


  • Dr. Katarzyna WARMIŃSKA

Primary authors



National censuses, which introduce numerical, essentialist and reductionist representations of a culturally diverse society, can be interpreted not only as a statistical procedure, but also as a form of violence on the part of nation states against minorities, in that they impose a simplified system of categorisation in the description of varied and complex ethnocultural identities. It is rarely noted that censuses are also a significant instrument in the hands of minority leaders who use them for their own goals. They make use of processes of essentialisation and reductionism in the creation of methods of group self-description desired by them. They construct an image of the community which is consistent with their aims and at the same time with the requirements imposed by census categories. We intend to examine these processes by focusing on the results of ethnographic research on three stateless ethnic groups: the Kashubians, the Lemkos and the Silesians. We will describe identity projects created by ethnic leaders in the context of censuses, which on the one hand have an essentialist and reductionist character, but, on the other, are sufficiently open to allow group members with identities of varied complexity to be included. As shown by our research, a census is, from the perspective of a minority, an important event, as its results (both qualitative and quantitative) determine that minority’s relations with the dominant group. Moreover, censuses provide researchers of ethnic processes with the opportunity to examine identity processes based on essentialisation typical of identity politics itself.