EUI Working Paper MWP, 10 (2014)
This paper aims to broaden the scope of constructivist theory on norms diffusion by considering the case of religious normative action by non-Western international actors. Drawing on Habermasian normative debates about the post-secular, the paper conceptualizes world society as a post-secular global public sphere where the process of institutional translation acts as a social mechanism of norm contestation and international diffusion. Institutional translation is empirically investigated through two case studies in the normative activity of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) at the United Nations (UN). The first case looks at the dialogue of civilizations norm promoted by the OIC. This norm, after going through a successful process of translation into the secular liberal language, garnered international support and was finally institutionalized in the UN’s Alliance of Civilizations. The second case focuses on the principle of defamation of religion. This norm, facing ample translation barriers, was largely opposed by international actors at the UN and eventually failed to become an internationally recognized norm. We conclude that the mechanism of institutional translation is central to explaining how norms diffuse internationally across different cultural and normative contexts.