The affective dynamics of political mobilization on and beyond the squares: Rethinking the Public Sphere after the Tahrir and Taksim Protests

— Bilgin Ayata, Cilja Harders

The mass upheavals in North Africa and the Middle East and subsequent transformations since 2010/11 spurred by the politics of the street have brought the role of emotions and political protest once again to the fore. While occupying squares, and protesting in concert for days and weeks, people reclaimed public space. They reclaimed ‘the political’ as ‘the right to have rights’ in light of decades of authoritarian repression. While protesting, participants experienced highly productive affective and emotional dynamics in that they help to overcome – at least momentarily – old and new social, economic, religious or ethnic cleavages. Thus, rather than asking why people protest as much of the Social Movement literature does, we look at what protest does to people. Based on our research in Turkey and Egypt, we will explore what the emotional experience of protesting together on the squares entails for the emergence of new political subjectivities and subsequent political mobilization on the local level years after the protest. How does the experience of the squares and in community groups feed into the emotional repertoire of political transformation? How are the many fault-lines of class, gender, age, ethnic and religious cleavages re-negotiated through the political struggles? How then, is the public sphere transformed in the aftermath of mass protest, if at all?