It is never just rage against injustice that leads to mass uprisings, but also the millenarian belief in something better. The better life that the Egyptian and Turkish people fought for has not yet and may never materialize. A fleeting glimpse of an alternative future was, however, actualized in the encampments on Tahrir and Taksim, where utopian communities flourished. In Tahrir, the police state was driven out. In Taksim, money was abolished, and everything was for free. Beyond comparing these utopian dreamscapes, Holmes’s essay also addresses the movements’ relationships with their really-existing military establishments. More than the ideological differences between Nasserism and Kemalism, it was the very different tradition of military coups that shaped the public’s reaction to the armed forces. In Egypt, the Free Officers liberated the country from the British and built their anticolonial legacy around protecting the nation from external threats, leading to a situation in which some parts of the protest movement supported the military intervention that removed President Mohamed Morsi. In Turkey, the series of coups, in 1960, 1971, and 1980, were directed against internal threats: revolutionaries who challenged the state. Hence the vast majority of Gezi Park protesters maintain a critical distance from the military. By comparing the protests in Egypt and Turkey, this essay represents an attempt to step outside the “Arab Spring” paradigm while also thinking together the dystopic and utopic—the military coups and mad utopias that took root, and later perished, in Taksim and Tahrir.
Amy Austin Holmes; On Military Coups and Mad Utopias. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 April 2014; 113 (2): 380–395. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-2644176
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