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Research Seminar | Norm emergence in the nascent world polity – The multiple origins of religious rights in international law, 1800-1918

Monday January 24, 2022, from 13:30 to 15:00
Research seminar

Matthias Koenig (University of Heidelberg). ChairEmre Amasyali (IBEI)

Religious freedom has been among the most contested norms in international human rights law. In an attempt to historicize neo-institutional world polity theory, this article turns attention to slow-moving social processes in which religious rights emerged in international law over the long 19th century. Drawing on a relational dataset of bilateral treaties and legal historiography, it analyses density and centrality trends in the network of sovereign states, identifies mimetic and coercive norm diffusion and traces how religious rights became discursively standardized. Designed to govern religious difference in contexts of trade, imperial competition and ethnic nationalism, these norms contained different understandings of religious freedom that were promoted by distinctive actors – Western governments, Christian missionaries and transnational minority activists. Uncovering these conflicting understandings and actor constellations is crucial for reconstructing the global politics of religious difference in the early 20th century.

Matthias Koenig holds the Chair for Empirical Macrosociology at the Max-Weber-Institute for Sociology of Heidelberg University. Koenig’s research interests focus on empirical macrosociology, and in particular on the interplay of global and local dynamics of institutional and cultural change. He has contributed to theoretical debates on world society, multiple modernities, and secularization, as well as to empirical research on religious boundaries and immigrant integration in Europe. His current research addresses the governance of cultural diversity in global comparative perspective, combining time series analyses of international and constitutional minority rights with cases studies on the judicial politics of religious difference.