in: Journal of International Relations and Development 18 (3), 311-336
In peacebuilding, international norms travel frequently from the global sphere of international organisations to local contexts — but what happens when international norms touch the ground? This article deals with norm diffusion in post-war Kosovo from the vantage point of the local, making localisation strategies, contestation patterns and translation practices the subject of analysis. It shows that the ‘local meaning’ of norms can be ambiguous, but nevertheless supportive of the liberal norms promoted by peacebuilding and that norm diffusion is shaped by conditions that are specific to post-war societies. First, norm contestation is influenced by wartime polarisations leading to segregated discursive arenas and by conflict goals that shape local interpretations of international norms. Through strategic emphasis and selection, local agents then aim to build congruence with the conflict goal. The rejection, localisation or acceptance of international norms depends on whether the established local meaning allows congruence building with the conflict goal or not. These claims are based on an empirical analysis of local interpretations (or ‘local meaning’) of the internationally promoted norms of democracy and minority rights at the municipal level in Kosovo.