The ideas of ethnicity among social work students and practitioners in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina
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The aim of this study is to explore the ideas about ethnicity and ethnic identity among social work students and practitioners in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Knowledge about ethnicity is an essential aspect of social work theory for understanding, working and interacting with different ethnic groups, individuals, families, and communities. The study is based on three-month fieldwork in Sarajevo, with a mixed method approach, consisting of qualitative in-depth interviews with students and experts of social work (n=9), and a quantitative survey with students (n=91) of social work and social science. Findings from the quantitative survey showed that ethnicity and ethnic identity is of importance to the participants, and they show strong emotional attachment to their own ethnic group and exploration of ethnic identity. However, some of the questions regarding exploration of ethnic identity, such as cultural practice and activity, are seen to be less prominent in comparison to ethnic identity commitment. The qualitative findings showed that the ideas of ethnicity and ethnic identity is expressed and can be explained through different topics such as religion, friends, family, heritage, and narratives. The context of Sarajevo emerged as an important element. Furthermore, studying social work and living in an ethnically diverse city seemed to contribute to shaping the perceptions of ethnicity and ethnic identity among the participants. Some of the findings indicate that the participants in this research might be affected by being a part of a majority (Bosniaks) in Sarajevo, and thereby lacking the understanding of being a minority. Moreover, it appeared to be important for the social work students and practitioners to explain that they would not discriminate different ethnic groups and that they work and study together despite being from different regions/countries. Similarly, in practical daily life, there is agreement of togetherness, respect for diversity, and prosperity for a brighter future. The findings are discussed in light of ethnic identity theory, narratives and heritage, micro-interactionism and social structure, as well as previous research, with particular attention to implications for social work.
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