Revolutionary politics and public imagination

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Ghamari-Tabrizi characterizes revolutions as opening moments of possibilities to transform history without predetermined goals. Revolutionary moments tear open the world of possibilities that are articulated in public imaginations of the good life. Iranians were dreaming, as Michel Foucault wrote; the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 puzzled western pundits and intellectuals who understood revolutionary movements only with reference to European experiences. The Realpolitik of existing possibilities colonized the imaginative spirit through which the demands for change were articulated. Such demands often compel revolutionary subjects to abandon their essential desire for possible realities and instead become content, as Robert Musil lamented in The Man Without Qualities, with a pragmatic sense of real possibilities. The “Arab Spring” was a discourse constructed to close the window of possibilities and subject the uprisings to historical inevitabilities. The masses on the streets largely identified their movement as a call for human dignity and an end to social injustice and corruption. Ghamari-Tabrizi points to instances when historians, political actors, intellectuals, and all those who give voice to public imagination render them as demands that are only legible with reference to the inherent logic of linear historical progress. By contrast, public imagination allows thinking without constraints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationOn Public Imagination
Subtitle of host publicationA Political and Ethical Imperative
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages3
ISBN (Electronic)9781000741049
ISBN (Print)9780367360634
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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