Voices from the Borders. Feridun Zaimoglu’s Kanaksprak

Tiziana Urbano


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.


Kanaksprak; dwelling in the beyond; border text; apparatus; mimicry; relexification; German minor literature

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/130

NBN: http://nbn.depositolegale.it/urn%3Anbn%3Ait%3Aunica-17581

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ISSN 2039-6597 

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