This essay follows a young barber named Mehmet as he joins the Turkish military in the wake of the country’s July 15, 2016, coup attempt. Mehmet’s preconscription rituals are used as an synecdochic entry point for a discussion of masculine dignity and control over public space as key dimensions of postcoup Turkish politics. The rituals that Mehmet plays out the night before basic training mirror the larger-scale symbolic and physical advance of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s faithful on Istanbul’s once cosmopolitan urban center. Mehmet and his friends idolize Erdoğan, the essay argues, not so much out of strict religious or ideological convictions, but because he offers them a story and a path to realize an ideal of citizenship and manhood, in contrast to a cosmopolitanism that devalues them.

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