Voices from the Borders. Feridun Zaimoglu’s Kanaksprak

  • Tiziana Urbano
Keywords: Kanaksprak, dwelling in the beyond, border text, apparatus, mimicry, relexification, German minor literature


Kanak Sprak, a collection of reportages by the Turkish-German author Feridun Zaimoglu issued in 1995, suggests two considerations: on the one hand on the strategies of empowerment of the stigma “Kanake”, which labels Turkish and other Germans with migration background who have been raised in the Federal Republic; on the other hand on the distortion of the mainstream language as a strategy of decolonization. Hence, this paper focuses on the subversion of the stereotype and the “relexification” of the language.

The stereotype works – as Homi Bhabha claims – like an apparatus, a deployment in which relations of force are formed and operate. By turning the stereotype into an articulation of their difference, Zaimoglu’s Kanaken try to subvert the hegemonic gaze, which contains their fluid identity into a label, and thus to assert their “in-betweeness” as “synthetic products”. Yet, their strategy of empowerment works as a performance of codes of behaviour and of a body language, which turn to absorb the mainstream gaze, failing in the claim for a resistant identity.

Furthermore their corrupted language, which is neither German nor Turkish, but a sort of provocative street slang rich in vernacular terms, works as a “relexification”, as Chantal Zabus calls the attempt to corrupt an European language with elements from another cultural substrate. Yet, Zaimoglu’s rendering of it sounds like a mockery of this slang, as the hegemonic German culture usually encodes it.

So, the fluid border crossing of Kanak interstitial identity in the end crystallizes in a mimicry, in which both codes of behaviour and language structures become a metonymic representation of difference.


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Author Biography

Tiziana Urbano
Tiziana Urbano was born in 1983 in Bari. She is PhD-student at the Università degli Studi di Palermo and is developing a dissertation project on the forms of aesthetic and satiric regime in the satirical-political Kabarett in post-war Berlin. Her research so far has encompassed German Literature, Cultural History, Performance Studies, Physical Perception and Cultural Anthropology, Reconnaissance and Border Studies, Biopolitics and Spatial Turn. She is currently searching in Berlin and at the Kabarettarchiv in Mainz. She published: “Un Orfeo nella Repubblica Democratica Tedesca”, culturalstudies.it, (2008): 89-99; “Orfeo nella Chausseestrasse. Un’analisi di Wolf Biermann cant(aut)ore”, Annali della Facoltà di Lingue e Letterature Straniere, III serie, XIX (2008): 325-348. Forthcoming: SENTIRE la musica. La percezione come rappresentazione nell’arte plastica di Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, 22. ss.; Biopolitik und Stadtgestaltung in der DDR von Brigitte Reimann, 17 ss.
How to Cite
Urbano, T. (2011). Voices from the Borders. Feridun Zaimoglu’s <i>Kanaksprak</i&gt;. Between, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/130
Geocriticism, Geopolitics: The Gaze of the Other