Beyond Ethnic Intolerance: Traces and Benefits of Ethnic Diversity in Post-War Bosnia-Herzegovina

Part of the Peace Psychology Book Series book series (PPBS, volume 17)


In this chapter, the authors revisit the issue of intergroup contact and its effect on prejudice towards out-groups. They argue that the critical point is to understand under which specific conditions the experience of heterogeneity can actually lead to constructive intergroup relations. The aim of this study is to investigate when the co-presence of different ethnic groups within a society leads to positive or negative intergroup relationships. Bosnia and Herzegovina is treated as a case study of conflict of interests and the emergence of cross-cultural identities. Indeed, former Bosnia and Herzegovina was characterised by high levels of ethnic heterogeneity and cultural diversity, which were redesigned by the war conflict of the 90s. On the basis of analyses of TRACES data, the authors considered under which psychological conditions the contextual heterogeneity constructively influenced adult attitudes towards others and society. The effects of growing up in a heterogonous context on adult levels of tolerance, their sense of agency and their trust in social norms were investigated. The results suggest that the context in which people currently live is more salient than the one in which they grew up and that heterogeneity in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina buffers people against a sense of anomy. However, heterogeneity does not protect individuals who highly identify with their ethnic in-group against intergroup intolerance. In other words, the effects of contextual heterogeneity on attitudes towards out-groups—and on discouragement about social life—are moderated by ethnic identification.


Former Yugoslavia Intergroup contact Ethnic identity Heterogeneity Homogeneity Bosnia Herzegovina 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES, Faculty of Social and Political SciencesUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Faculty of EducationUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly

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