Vernacularization of liberal civil society by transnational Islamist NGO networks.

Zeynep Atalay, Saint Mary's College of California

Description/Abstract

Over the last two decades, informal Islamic networks have been re-establishing themselves as formal NGOs and building transnational coalitions. These newly formed faith-based NGOs retain their original agendas: promoting Islamic revival and global solidarity by supporting Muslim communities around the world. However, they now reposition themselves as 'civil society initiatives' and selectively appropriate the liberal civil society discourse. In this article, I analyse the discursive strategies that local actors undertake when they vernacularize external idea packages that challenge their cognitive preconceptions. The empirical findings of the article demonstrate that the ideological self-positioning of the local norm-taker is a key determinant of the vernacularization of micro processes. To reconcile the perceived normative conflict between political Islamist and liberal civil society frameworks, vernacularizers prune the civil society concept down to its associational and communitarian elements, discard its Western connotative associations, reconstruct the concept to match their institutional and cultural preconceptions, and claim its original ownership.