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Akçam – Zaimoğlu –‘Kanak Attak’: Turkish Lives and Letters in German

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Abstract

In the later 1990s the writer Feridun Zaimoğlu (b. 1963) seized the label ‘Kanak’ to create himself as a spokesman for Turkish and other visibly non-German Germans who have been raised in the Federal Republic but have outsider status. In three books based on interviews with young male and female ‘Kanaken’ and ‘Kanakas’, melding documentary realism, subcultural theory and dramatic prose poetry, and in polemical essays and narrative sketches composed in the same stylised ‘Kanak Sprak’, Zaimoğlu savaged institutionalised German racism, and attacked the hypocrisies of multicultural policy, the patronising exoticism practised by promoters of ‘Migrantenliteratur’, and the conformism of Turkish-German politicians and writers of ‘Gastarbeiterliteratur’. Zaimoğlu's non-stop reading tour, talk-show appearances, newspaper and magazine features, productions of his work for the stage, and a film, Kanak Attack!,based on one of his books, were key ingredients in the late-90s phenomenon of ‘Kanak-Chic’: the media's ‘discovery’ of bright, young, non-white, hybrid Germans. This phenomenon, which Zaimoğlu at once personified, profited from and criticised, is analysed in the present article.
German Life and Letters 55:2 April 2002
0016–8777
AKC
¸AM – ZAIMOG
˘LU – ‘KANAK ATTAK’: TURKISH LIVES AND
LETTERS IN GERMAN*
Tom Cheesman
abstract
In the later 1990s the writer Feridun Zaimog
˘lu (b. 1963) seized the label ‘Kanak’
to create himself as a spokesman for Turkish and other visibly non-German
Germans who have been raised in the Federal Republic but have outsider status.
In three books based on interviews with young male and female ‘Kanaken’ and
‘Kanakas’, melding documentary realism, subcultural theory and dramatic prose
poetry, and in polemical essays and narrative sketches composed in the same
stylised ‘Kanak Sprak’, Zaimog
˘lu savaged institutionalised German racism, and
attacked the hypocrisies of multicultural policy, the patronising exoticism practised
by promoters of ‘Migrantenliteratur’, and the conformism of Turkish-German poli-
ticians and writers of ‘Gastarbeiterliteratur’. Zaimog
˘lu’s non-stop reading tour,
talk-show appearances, newspaper and magazine features, productions of his work
for the stage, and a film, Kanak Attack!, based on one of his books, were key
ingredients in the late-90s phenomenon of ‘Kanak-Chic’: the media’s ‘discovery’
of bright, young, non-white, hybrid Germans. This phenomenon, which Zaimog
˘lu
at once personified, profited from and criticised, is analysed in the present article.
Revising this article in the last quarter of 2001, I am wondering why, since
the attacks on the United States on September 11, individual Muslims
(especially women) and Sikhs have been targeted throughout the UK, but
not in Germany. This seems surprising, given that numerous assaults on
‘visible others’ have scarred Germany’s international image since the early
1990s. Why did September 11 not mobilise German racists in the same
way? One clue may be found in the anti-Americanism of German extrem-
ists, as typified by former RAF member Horst Mahler. His website
(www.horst-mahler.de) currently features texts discussing the possibility of
forging alliances between the German and Islamist opponents of capitalist
globalisation. British fascist parties and groups, in contrast, cultivate links
with American ‘cousins’. Another important difference is that Britain has
recently seen a spate of urban riots involving British Asian youth, provoked
by extreme right-wing parties in a calculated bid to inflame white majority
hostility. Public disorder of this kind is unimaginable in Germany, since
the vast majority of the racially discriminated potential rioters do not have
German citizenship and are very effectively deterred from violent protest
by the threat of deportation. This lends added importance to the forms
*This essay is based on research funded by the ESRC through a multi-disciplinary project titled
‘Axial Writing’ (award number L214252030), within the Transnational Communities Research Pro-
gramme based at the University of Oxford (www.transcomm.ox.ac.uk). The term ‘axial writing’
refers to work by mobile creative intellectuals who have a foot and a voice in two or more societies
connected by axes of transnational migration.
Blackwell Publishers Ltd 2002. Published by Blackwell Publishers, 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF, UK
and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
181TURKISH LIVES AND LETTERS IN GERMAN
of cultural political activism, exemplied by the work of Feridun Zaimog
˘lu
and the Kanak Attak anti-racist network, which this essay discusses.
Zaimog
˘lu emerged in 1995 as a charismatic spokesman of the so-called
second and third generations of Turkish nationals and other racially and
politically discriminated migrants in Germany.
1
He was born in Turkey in
1963 and raised from infancy in different German cities by parents who
arrived as guest workers.
2
He belongs to the minority of young migrants
and migrantsoffspring who have succeeded in gaining an education that
equips them to enter middle-class occupations. He went to Kiel to study
medicine but concentrated on painting and writing, taking jobs as a street
workerin drugs projects. His rst book, Kanak Sprak (Hamburg 1995),
was an unexpected success: it turned out to be timed perfectly to meet a
demand among intellectuals for evidence of innovative, creative contri-
butions to German culture from the marginsand especially from
migrants.
This phenomenon was closely connected with many young intellectuals
enthusiastic reception of totemic works of Anglo-American Cultural Stud-
ies and Post-colonial Studies, including the analyses of culture, migration
and race by gures such as Stuart Hall, Homi Bhabha, Robert White and
Gayatri Spivak,
3
and with the still more widespread keen interest in Black
and Asian novelists, as well as musicians and lm-makers, from the anglo-
phone and francophone worlds. Indeed, many articles on migrant Ger-
man-language writers, mentioning Zaimog
˘lu alongside others of Turkish
name (such as Zehra C
¸ırak, Emine Sevgi O
¨zdamar, Selim O
¨zdogan, Zafer
S
¸enocak and Dilek Zaptciog
˘lu), and from other migrant backgrounds,
4
1
The term Migrantis used as a self-description among young people whose parents or grand-
parents migrated to Germany. Kanakor Kanake,Ku
¨mmeland other originally racist epithets
are used as self-descriptions in some circles (both working-class and intellectual). Terms like Gen-
nicht-Deutschemock quasi-ofcial terminology which includes ausla
¨ndische Mitbu
¨rgerInnenand
anderssta
¨mmige Deutsche. For an up-to-date overview of migrants and their organisations, written
by members of the pointedly-named Mannheim activists group Die Unmu
¨ndigen(part of the
Kanak Attak national network), see Ibrahim Cindark and Hu
¨seyin Ertunc, Germany: Minority
Ethnic Communities and Processes of Social Exclusionin Voices of Change: European Minority Organ-
isations in Civil Dialogue, ed. Anja Rudiger, Berlin 2001, pp. 2734.
2
See the autobiographical essay Kanak Attack: Rebellion der Minderheitenin Feridun Zaimog
˘lu,
Kopf und Kragen: Kanak-Kultur-Kompendium, Frankfurt am Main 2001, pp. 821. This speech was
delivered to a congress of the Weltenbu
¨rger e.V. and printed in the FR on 20 May 2000, where it
was presented as a replyto Federal President Johannes Rausrst Berliner Rede,Ohne Angst
und ohne Tra
¨umereien: Gemeinsam leben in der Bundesrepublik(12 May 2000). For a critique
of Zaimog
˘lus self-proclaimed representative and heroic status in his Weltenbu
¨rger Rede, see
Gerhard Spaney, Die ganze Haut in einem Riss. Negation und Persiage von Identita
¨ten bei Feri-
dun Zaimog
˘lu,iz3w: Bla
¨tter des Informationszentrums dritte Welt, 253 (2001), 267.
3
See Mainstream der Minderheiten: Pop in der Kontrollgesellschaft, ed. Mark Terkessidis and Tom Holert,
Berlin 1995; Globalkolorit: Multikulturalismus und Popula
¨rkultur, ed. Mark Terkessidis and Ruth
Mayer, St.Andra
¨/Wo
¨rdern 1998; and Mark Terkessidis, Globale Kultur in Deutschland, oder: Wie
unterdru
¨ckte Frauen und Kriminelle die Hybridita
¨t retten,parapluie, 2 (1999), at
www.parapluie.de/archiv/generation/hybrid, and Orte der Verstrickung,Zeitschrift fu
¨r Kulturaus-
tausch, 3 (1999), at www.ifa.de/z/993/dzterkf.htm (accessed 12 December 2001).
4
See Interkulturelle Literatur in Deutschland: ein Handbuch, ed. Carmine Chiellino, Stuttgart 2000.
Blackwell Publishers Ltd 2002.
182 TURKISH LIVES AND LETTERS IN GERMAN
display clear signs of what can only be called diversity envy. Noting the
enrichment brought to recent English and French literatures by trans-
lated people(in Salman Rushdies phrase), critics even express their
hopes that the magic of hybridisation, working on the ferment of
migration, might yet produce a world-class writer from Germany.
5
Amid
anxiety that nur deutsche Literatur
6
has precious few chances of making
an impact on the globalised literary market in which the exotic is at a
premium, commentators look to the naturally cosmopolitanmigrants in
search of an exportable new product.
7
This applies not only in the realm
of literature:
Die deutsche O
¨ffentlichkeit entdeckt verdutzt und mit großem Appetit die
Anwesenheit jener, die bislang mit allen Mitteln von eben dieser O
¨ffentlich-
keit ausgeschlossen wurden . . . Begriffe wie Neues tu
¨rkisches Kino,Orien-
tal Hip Hop
8
und Kanak Literaturschwappen durch Talkshows und Feuil-
letons
9
all this under the unspoken motto: Kultur ja, aber Rechte fu
¨r Einwan-
derInnen nein.
10
Zaimog
˘lu was the rst writer to seize this opportunity,
stylising himself as a channel for voices from the mass of multicultured
twice-migrants from rural Turkey to urban Turkey and thence to urban
Germany who are forging new lifestyles and artforms out of the diversity
of globalised commercial subcultures: Die erste Lektion des BauernArbei-
65
See e.g. Andrea Bo
¨hm, Zwischen die Fronten geraten, and Die Mischung machts,inDie Zeit
1999/8, accessed at www.zeit.de/1999/8 (12 December 2001). Nobel Prize winner Gu
¨nter Grass has
been celebrated as the quintessential migrant writer by Salman Rushdie, Gu
¨nter Grass,Imaginary
Homelands: Essays and Criticism, 19811991, London 1992, pp. 27381.
6
Eine nicht nur deutsche Literatur. Zur Standortbestimmung der Ausla
¨nderliteratur, ed. Irmgard Acker-
mann and Harald Weinrich, Munich 1986.
7
In March 2001 the Bo
¨rsenverein des deutschen Buchhandels sent fty German writers to Paris
for the Salon du Livre. Migrants and post-migrants were represented on an unprecedented scale:
Emine Sevgi O
¨zdamar, Feridun Zaimog
˘lu and Zafer S
¸enocak for the Turkish team, while other
axes of transcultural trafc were personied by Perikles Monioudis, Jose
´F. A. Oliver, Herta Mu
¨ller
and Wladimir Kaminer, not to mention Gu
¨nter Grass.
8
See Tom Cheeseman [sic], Polyglot Politics: Hip Hop in Germany,Debatte, 6/2 (1998), 191214;
Imran Ayata, Kanak-Rap in Alamanya,Angeworben eingewandert abgeschoben. Ein anderer Blick
auf die Einwanderungsgesellschaft Bundesrepublik Deutschland, ed. Katja Dominik et al., Mu
¨nster 1999,
pp. 27387.
9
See Deniz Go
¨ktu
¨rk, Turkish Delight German Fright: Migrant Identities in Transnational Cin-
ema, Working Paper 9901, Transnational Communities Research Programme, Oxford 1999, at
www.transcomm.ox.ac.uk (accessed 12 December 2001).
10
Hito Steyerl, Ornamente der neuen Mitte: Wo Widerstand zu Kanak-Chic wird, bedient sich die
Gesellschaft,iz3w: Bla
¨tter des Informationszentrums dritte Welt, 253 (2001), 245. For an account of
the way in which the German states multiculturalist initiatives reinforce cultural stereotypes, see
Stephen Vertovec, Berlin Multikulti: Germany, foreignersand world-openness”’,New Community,
22 (1996), 38199.
Blackwell Publishers Ltd 2002.
183TURKISH LIVES AND LETTERS IN GERMAN
terKindes heißt also: Ich bin ein Angebot. Ich bin mehr als zwei Kultur-
tanks! Ich verdaueuch alle!
11
Kanak Sprak is scarcely an exportable product, because as we will see
it is effectively untranslatable.
12
It thus fails one of the acid tests of univer-
salliterary value, but still it must rank among the most important works
of recent German political literature. The book provocatively reworked a
non-ction genre which had become commonplace in Germany in the
1980s: books explaining Turkish life in Germany, framed by German
natives, based on life-story interviews, variously produced by journalists,
sociologists and ethnographers.
13
These belong to the eld of Betrof-
fenheitsliteratur, to which much Ausla
¨nderliteraturand Migrantenlite-
ratur’–autobiographically-based ction, poetry and drama by migrants,
directed at a native majority audience also belongs. Several examples of
the non-ction genre were analysed in 1989 in an essay by Teraoka,
14
including Gu
¨nter WalraffsGanz unten (Hamburg 1985): a best-seller
based on a radical form of participant observation, which can be credited
with improving working conditions for some guest-workers, but neverthe-
less denies voice and agency to the Turkish subjects it features. Zaimog
˘lus
foreword announces: Im Gegensatz zur Immigrantenliteraturkommen
hier Kanaken in ihrer eigenen Zunge zu Wort(18).
Kanak Sprak is modelled on an example of this literature not mentioned
by Teraoka: Dursun Akc
¸ams book published in a bilingual edition in Ger-
many as Deutsches Heim Glu
¨ck allein: Wie Tu
¨rken Deutsche sehen. Alaman
Ocag
˘ı: Tu
¨rkler Almanları anlatıyor.
15
This presents twenty life-narratives
based on interviews with Turkish nationals living in Germany (mostly in
Hamburg), half of them adult working-class males (two of them invalided
by accidents at work), a few younger people, several women workers, a
housewife, a small businessman, a student, and some professionals: a
teacher, a cleric, a doctor, a social worker. This documentarist approach
is followed very closely by Kanak Sprak. It features twenty-four life-interview
protocols:24 Mißto
¨ne vom Rande der Gesellschaft (subtitle). All Zaimog
˘lus
interviewees are working-class but for one sociologist. All are male (in 1998
11
An Stelle eines Vorworts,Kanaksta: Von deutschen und anderen Ausla
¨ndern, ed. Joachim Lottmann,
Berlin 1999, pp. 79, here p. 8.
12
The less linguistically challenging second book, Abschaum: Die wahre Geschichte des Ertan Ongun,
Hamburg 1997, has been translated into Italian (Schiuma, Turin 1999), and Kanak Sprak into Turk-
ish by the authors father (Kafa O
¨rtu
¨su
¨Tu
¨rk, Istanbul 2000).
13
Zafer S
¸enocaks novel Gefa
¨hrliche Verwandtschaft includes parodic life-story interviews with Turks
including himself and a satire of the Ausla
¨nderliteraturcircus staged by German Ausla
¨n-
derfreunde:Gefa
¨hrliche Verwandtschaft, Munich 1998, pp. 94112 and 12731.
14
Arlene Akiko Teraoka, Talking Turk: On Narrative Strategies and Cultural Stereotypes,New
German Critique, 46 (1989), 10528.
15
Go
¨ttingen 1982, repr. 1993. The author, a distinguished novelist, journalist and trades union
activist, founder and editor of the newspaper Demokrat, was one of the left-wing intellectuals who
ed Turkey at the time of the September 1980 coup. Then aged 50, Akc
¸am came to Hamburg
where he resided until 1996.
Blackwell Publishers Ltd 2002.
184 TURKISH LIVES AND LETTERS IN GERMAN
Zaimog
˘lu published a similar book based on interviews with women),
16
and most of them residents of Gaarden, the working-class area where the
citys non-German population is concentrated, across the harbour and the
railway lines from the centre of Kiel. All are young (under thirty-ve)
most of them child migrants or born in Germany. In place of Akc
¸ams
hoca(cleric), Zaimog
˘lu presents a young Islamist; and if Akc
¸am
included in his sample two young hoodlums, an illegal migrant worker,
and a prisoner, Zaimog
˘lu presents this part of the social spectrum almost
exclusively. The vast majority of his interviewees are unemployed or in
illegal occupations, including several sex workers, a drug dealer, a pimp
and a fence; a few are identied in terms of cultural activity (a rapper, a
break-dancer, a poet); others as junkie, psychiatric patient, political asy-
lum-seeker, or simply as a frequenters of the Flohmarkt discotheque in
Kiel, the town centres sole Tu
¨rkendisco(since closed by the police),
where Zaimog
˘lu met many of these young men.
Where Akc
¸am tries to provide a panorama of representative voices, Zai-
mog
˘lu concentrates on social outsiders this despite the signicant
growth of a Turkish middle class in the intervening period; or rather, as
we will shortly see, in response to that development. There is a further
and more important difference between the two, a matter of language
and style. Akc
¸am clearly edited his transcripts quite heavily, in order to
normalise the texts in terms of print conventions, while preserving some
features of individual voices. Zaimog
˘lu translatedinterviews conducted
in a mixture (crossing) of Turkish and German into a highly original
literary German bearing a strong authorial stamp, featuring rap rhythms
and rich in vernacular metaphors. This reduces the differentiation of indi-
vidual speakers to some extent, while it greatly enhances the impact of
their life-narratives. The foreword to Kanak Sprak describes the peculiar
idiom of the streetwise Kanaks monological performance in mock-ethno-
graphic fashion, as the part-gestural language of a subcultural urban tribe.
Zaimog
˘lu stresses that the text before us is a translation, an ‘“U
¨berset-
zung”’ and a ‘“Nachdichtung”’ (quote-marks in the original) which aims
ein in sich geschlossenes, sichtbares, mithin authentischesSprachbild
zu schaffen(18). His inventive use of language, coupled with the vexed
and highly interesting questions of authenticitywhich his work provoked,
brought his work attention on a scale which neither he nor his publishers
had anticipated.
My attention was drawn to Zaimog
˘lu by the poets Jose
´F.A. Oliver and
Hasan O
¨zdemir, following a reading at the Goethe Institut in London in
1997. Oliver quoted from Kanak Sprak at length in an article of 1995,
celebrating Zaimog
˘lus dynamic style as an Angebot an die deutsche Lite-
ratursprache.
17
The mix of provocative content and no less provocative
16
Koppstoff. Kanaka Sprak vom Rande der Gesellschaft, Hamburg 1998.
17
Jose
´F.A. Oliver. Kanak Sprak Schreiben am Ufer der Fremde. Eine Rand-Literatur in Deutsch-
land?,Universitas. Zeitschrift fu
¨r interdisziplina
¨re Wissenschaft, 594 (1995), 115666.
Blackwell Publishers Ltd 2002.
185TURKISH LIVES AND LETTERS IN GERMAN
style was widely welcomed as bringing fresh sparkle into the literary scene,
although Zaimog
˘lus work was no less widely regarded as not being litera-
ture at all: many reviewers assumed Zaimog
˘lu had merely transcribed real
ghetto talkliterally.
18
The following sample, from the section headed
Der direkte Draht zum schwarzen Mann Ali, 23, Rapper (von da crime
posse),
19
is typically polemical, displaying a highly politicised conscious-
ness of the subjects abject status. Readers should bear in mind that what
apparently claims to be a protocol of spontaneous speech may perhaps in
part be just that, though we will never know; far more importantly, it is a
script for dramatic performance. Texts from Kanak Sprak have since been
used on countless occasions in adaptations for the stage, radio and lms,
not to mention recitations by the author in (he claims) some 400 public
readings in the past ve years.
20
This passage deals with one of Zaimog
˘lus
recurring themes, the majority cultures division of the gure of the young
male Turk in Germany into two stereotypes: the welcome, submissive lieb-
alileinwho conforms to bourgeois norms; or the feared, violent criminal
gefa
¨hrlich fremdin the words of a notorious Spiegel cover (14 April
1997):
Der einheimische hat fu
¨rnku
¨mmel ja zwei reservate frei: entweder bist dun
lieb-alilein, n recht und billiger bimbo eben, der doch wunderscho
¨n seine
kopfsteuer ann staat blecht und die pranken inn schoßbettet, n blechka-
merad mitm kopp in der schlinge, und denn warten aufn magischen akt,
n madonnenwunder. Da kommen denn die fo
¨rderfreunde und geben dirn
klaps auf die schulter, und die sagen dir: das betrifft mich jetzt volle kante,
daßdun armes schwein bist. Son lieb-alilein ist der wahre kanake, weil er
sich dem einheimischen zwischen die ollen arschbacken in den kanal die-
nert, und den kakaou
¨berzug als ne art identita
¨tpegt. n kanake is sowas
wie ne rothaut, die man mit bunten glasperlen und feuerwasser bescheißt,
und der grient dazu wien tourist aufm schnappschußfoto. Dann gibts
nochn zweites reservat, in dem der fremdla
¨nder den part des verwegenen
desperados u
¨bernimmt, ein richtiger mannskerl eben, der wien blitz aus
der hu
¨fte schießt, und sonst auchn feiner stecher is, und in diesem reservat
18
In 1997 Die Zeit devoted a full page to Zaimog
˘lu, not in the Feuilleton, however, but in the
Modernes Lebensection (Joachim Lottmann, Kanak Attack!,Die Zeit, 14 November 1997, p. 88).
Only in 2000 did a book surveying recent German literature include a chapter on him (by Jamal
Tuschick): aufgerissen: zur Literatur der 90er, ed. Thomas Kraft, Munich 2000, pp. 105116.
19
This Aliis the only readily identiable real person in Kanak Sprak: Ali Aksoy, whose hip hop
group da crime posseformed part of the Cartelproject, which in 1995 introduced rap music
from Germany to Turkey. See references above (note 9).
20
Stage versions have been too numerous to mention. The Ho
¨rspielversion (with raps by da
crime posse), directed by Go
¨tz Naleppa for DeutschlandRadio/SDR (1997), has been published
on CD (2000). Deutschland im Winter Kanakistan: Eine Rap-Reportage, a short lm featuring Zaimo-
g
˘lu and da crime possedelivering sections of the monologues on location in Kiel (directed by
Thomas Ro
¨schner for ZDF and Arte, 1997), won a Civis prize for television programmes on the
theme Leben in der kulturellen Vielfalt Achtung des Anderen. The feature lm Kanak Attack!
(Lars Becker, 2000) includes some text from Kanak Sprak, but it is mainly based on Zaimog
˘lus
second book, Abschaum, whose real-life hero appears in Deutschland im Winter. Zaimog
˘lus reading
at Swansea in November 1998 is video-streamed at www.swan.ac.uk/german/videos/.
Blackwell Publishers Ltd 2002.
186 TURKISH LIVES AND LETTERS IN GERMAN
lu
¨mmeln sich die goldkettchen-bimbos und die schneuzerku
¨mmel und
machen jagd auf blonde weibchen, weil die kru
¨cken brauchen und jede
menge stu
¨tzgera
¨te, um auf den beinen zu bleiben. In beiden fa
¨llen, bruder,
wirst du als luschengaul ins tote rennen geschickt, und du mußt da auch
nicht die zielgerade erreichen, wichtig ist nur, daßdu deine meilen lahm
abtrabst, und dann steckt man dir mu
¨rbe zuckerwu
¨rfel ins maul und krault
dir herrisch an der ma
¨hne. (Zaimog
˘lu 1995, pp. 312)
This is a performance of street slang raised to the level of dramatic polit-
ical poetry through far from naive literary skill: a virtuoso handling of
rhythm, assonance and alliteration; a vast vocabulary which does not shy
away from scatology,
21
but more interestingly is rich in vernacular terms
(here, among others: blechen,pranken), in inventive compounds
(blechkamerad,fo
¨rderfreunde), in telling juxtapositions of registers
(here, the jargon of political correctness with trendy slang: das betrifft
mich jetzt volle kante), in dialect terms (especially but not only from
north Germany: grienen), and in vivid metaphors (luschengaul). Above
all, the writing displays a sheer delight in play with the language, in cre-
ating verbal pyrotechnics, which reinforces the angry (and theory-
informed) sentiment of humiliation and abjection with evidence of a com-
mand of German style which few if any of Zaimog
˘lus contemporaries in
German ction, poetry or drama approach.
22
The mainstream discourse of multiculturalism talk of the Other,cul-
tural difference,identityand hybridity’–comes under vehement attack
in Zaimog
˘lus work because of its use in deecting attention from plain
social and political injustice. In the passage just quoted, identity’figures
as a waste product of the established society which the would-be assimilant
must wear as a second skin and as the mark of his subjugation. The fore-
word to Kanak Sprak outlines how the term Kanake,[d]ieses verun-
glimpfende Hetzwort, has become an identita
¨tsstiftende[s] Kennwort
among migrant youth, as [a]nalog zur Black-consciousness-Bewegung in
den USA werden die einzelnen Kanak-Subidentita
¨ten’–the ethnically,
nationally and religiously specic ascribed identities of non-white non-Ger-
mans –‘zunehmend u
¨bergreifender Zusammenha
¨nge und Inhalte
bewußt.And meanwhile: Inmitten der Mainstreamkultur entstehen die
ersten rohen Entwu
¨rfe fu
¨r eine ethnizistische Struktur in Deutschland
(17): that is, a system of de facto apartheid in which population groups
distinguished by ethno-cultural differenceand citizenship status, rather
than colour, are subject to different legal regimes. The construction of
21
Arnold Rothe has commented of Turkish-German authors: Anders als bei Beurs und Maghrebi-
nern bleiben die Grenzen des Anstands stets gewahrt.No longer! Tu
¨rken in Deutschland, Magh-
rebiner in Frankreich, Heidelberg 1996, at www.uni-heidelberg.de/uni/presse/RuCa3F96/
rothe.htm (accessed 12 December 2001).
22
At the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1998, Zaimog
˘lu told me with delight that Stephan Heym had
sought him out in order to tell him that Kanak Sprak was the best thing he had read for ages, and:
weiter so!.
Blackwell Publishers Ltd 2002.
187TURKISH LIVES AND LETTERS IN GERMAN
Kanakas a cross-ethnic counter-identity is intended to challenge this
status quo. Kanakis a parody identity, a agrantly articial and intention-
ally slippery construct: Zaimog
˘lu denies that only Turkish Germansor
German Turks, or only ethnically non-GermanGerman denizens and
citizens can be Kanakenor Kanakstas. Instead it is a political category:
Viele Deutsche sind Kanakstas. Du bist im dem Moment Kanaksta, wo du
die Gesellschaft durchschaust.
23
The launch of Kanakas a cultural label
aimed to make visible the articiality and rigidity of the conventionally
ascribed identities derived from the history of colonialism and of post-
colonial migrations.
This strategy is not without its contradictions, but these are integral to
its success: das Feuilleton ist dankbar fu
¨r jeden offen ausgelegten Wider-
spruch, as Zaimog
˘lu put it a few years later, when, on the strength of his
readiness to defy the logics of mainstream multiculturalism and political
correctness, he had become a regular columnist for Die Zeit and contribu-
tor to other national papers.
24
To oppose the identitarian regimewhich
xes individuals as representatives of constructed groups, it is not suf-
cient merely to object that one is an individual: it is necessary to subvert
the multiculturalist discourse of identity by devices which include the
aggressive over-fullment of stereotypical expectations. Again and again
Zaimog
˘lus angry young Turks, embittered by German racism, are shown
self-consciously assuming the identityof the dangerous alien which the
society offers them: Wir sind die Kanaken, vor denen ihr Deutschen
immer gewarnt habt. Jetzt gibt es uns, ganz eurem Bild und euren A
¨ngsten
entsprechend.
25
But Zaimog
˘lus writing procedure undercuts even the
seeming simplicity of this social and cultural process of mimicry. For who
really speaks through his texts? Zaimog
˘lu as the author? Or his ethno-
graphic informants? Zaimog
˘lus own power over the voices of others he
purports to represent encapsulates the very division between the socially
successful minority of conformist migrants and the downtrodden majority
that is so often the focus of his charactersimpotent fury. When he came
to assemble his collection of texts representing female Kanakas,Koppstoff
(1998),
26
some insisted on supplying texts and refused to let him edit
them, and many of the authors brief introductions to the individual pro-
tocolsnote suspicions of him and his motives, and criticisms of his work
by those who had read the earlier books. Forbidden to translateall the
womens texts into his own voice, he produced an aesthetically less coher-
ent book, but one which develops much further his representation of the
heterogeneity subsumed under identity labels, be they self-ascribed or
xed by others.
23
Joachim Lottmann, Kanak Attack!,Die Zeit, 14 November 1997, p. 88. Kanakstacrosses Kanake
with gangsta(as in gangsta rap) or, Zaimog
˘lu claims, with youngster.
24
An Stelle eines Vorworts, in Joachim Lottmann (ed.), Kanaksta: Von deutschen und anderen
Ausla
¨ndern, Berlin 1999, pp. 79, here p. 8.
25
Nachwort,Abschaum, p. 183.
26
Koppstoff: Kanaka Sprak vom Rande der Gesellschaft, Hamburg 1998.
Blackwell Publishers Ltd 2002.
188 TURKISH LIVES AND LETTERS IN GERMAN
Fury at the impasse created by the obligation to represent a given ident-
ity, stoked further by the banalisation of the radical chic notion of the
hybridas a new kind of cool, is the keynote of his early work.
27
Invited
in 1997 to contribute to a Kursbuch JugendKultur,
28
Zaimog
˘lu supplied two
thousand words of raging polemic titled Ku
¨mmelContra, beginning:
jugendkultur?
im sistem tanzen go
¨ren bis sie umfallen tragen weite klotten sind rapper
tragen eng sind pulp tragen neon sind tekkno tragen pechschwarz sind
grufti tragen haarschnitt sind bo
¨rse tragen hanf sind gru
¨n tragen stiefel
sind glatzen . . .
fuck this line kanak!
sie wollen ihn sehen?!
sie wollen ihn sehen: den gangtero
¨sen vorstadtlevantiner, den ollen prolet-
trashjungleboogiefakker, die neue ikone vom volk fu
¨rs volk, den omabe-
klauer, den taffen reservatsku
¨mmel, den big city-anatolier im kanak-kosmos.
Der neue mutationsschub des systems aus wellblecho
¨den und containern
und do
¨ner kebab-kabuff-hinterho
¨fen und allahtempeln soll dem hip-hop-
pigen mtv-dandy zum stimmungshoch verhelfen: tu
¨rkisch gast als zehrpro-
tein fu
¨r exotenbefummler.
This essay was one of several manifestos for a cultural political movement
in process of formation, Kanak Attak, written in a period when Zaimog
˘lus
work brought opportunities to travel the length and breadth of Germany,
to give readings, develop stage productions, and join the well-established
circuit of conferences, seminars and workshops on migration and culture.
This brought him into contact with numerous local groups of anti-racist
activists and especially with members of multi-ethnic MigrantInnen-
Selbstorganisationen: groups which operate independently of the Ger-
man states administrative structures dealing with Ausla
¨nder(also man-
aged by the churches and foundations which run the charity sector), and
equally independently of the ethnically specicMigrantenvereinewhich
these administrative structures strongly favour. Ku
¨mmelContraagain:
27
See Manuela Gu
¨nter, ‘“Wir sind bastarde, freunde. . .. Feridun Zaimog
˘lus Kanak Sprak und die
performative Struktur von Identita
¨t,Sprache und Literatur in Wissenschaft und Didaktik, 83 (1999),
1528; Gerhard Spaney, Die ganze Haut in einem Riss. Negation und Persiage von Identita
¨ten
bei Feridun Zaimog
˘lu,iz3w: Bla
¨tter des Informationszentrums dritte Welt, 253 (2001), 267; Christian
Begemann, ‘“Kanakensprache. Schwellenpha
¨nomene in der deutschsprachigen Literatur ausla
¨n-
discher AutorInnen der Gegenwart,inSchwellen: germanistische Erkundungen einer Metapher, ed. Nico-
laus Saul et al., Wu
¨rzburg 1999, pp. 20920, esp. pp. 2189; Leslie A. Adelson, Touching Tales
of Turks, Germans and Jews: Cultural Alterity, Historical Narrative, and Literary Riddles for the
1990s,New German Critique 80 (2000), 93124, esp. 115118. Zaimog
˘lus work is analysed in Kien
Nghi Ha, Ethnizita
¨t und Migration,Mu
¨nster 1999; and excerpts from Zaimog
˘lusrst books (as well
as poems by Nevfel Cumart) enliven the same publishersAngeworben eingewandert abgeschoben.
Ein anderer Blick auf die Einwanderungsgesellschaft Bundesrepublik Deutschland, ed. Katja Dominik et
al., Mu
¨nster 1999.
28
Ku
¨mmelContra,Kursbuch JugendKultur. Stile, Szenen und Identita
¨ten vor der Jahrtausendwende, ed.
SpoKK (Symbolische Politik, Kultur und Kommunikation), Du
¨sseldorf 1997 (accessed at
www.bollmann.de/Zaimog
˘lu.html in January 1998, site no longer extant).
Blackwell Publishers Ltd 2002.
189TURKISH LIVES AND LETTERS IN GERMAN
Bald gibt es schnupperkurse in kanak-kunde. Evangelische blocko
¨-
tenpfaffen nden, daßdie spendenaktionsku
¨mmelko
¨ppe auch menschen
sind und unsere fu
¨rsorge sehr sehr no
¨tig haben. Deutsche ma
¨nner
entdecken die heulig-sentimentale kopftuchaysche als gegengift gegen den
emanzenspuk im eigenen stall. . . Die assyrer oder a
¨gypter hatten ihre hoch-
kultur, das gastarbeiterkind macht halt auf kulturkreissymptomatischen
ethnoquark. Sollen die neuen wilden mal strampeln: etwas nigger etwas har-
lem etwas oriental magic. Man will schließlich vom ennui wegkommen. Der
tu
¨rke gibt schon was her als aufmatscher, er ist der lowbudget-alpdruck des
weißen deutschen mannes, er ist die ultimative info fu
¨r den bel-etage-inter-
preten der ethnodru
¨se. Es geht also ein irgendwas um in almanya, das da
heißt: kanak-attak!
This would-be death-knell for multiculturalism, considered as a system
of paternalistic exoticism designed to absorb potential political and social
unrest, has the Nietzschean refrain-line: wo ha
¨ngt der hammer? nimm
das!Another essay, Gastarbeiterliteratur: Ali macht Ma
¨nnchen,
29
opens
with the refrain-line: Diese schrift ist eine kampfhandlung.Here again
his opening theme is the racialised subjects violent subjugation as body
and voice:
in unsere mitte, sagt man ihm, hast du bimbo was zu suchen, wenn wir
deine zunge und garderobe sind . . . bimbos ankunft inner euronation endet
entweder als etwas nettes ausgestopftes im museum fu
¨r vergangene ko
¨rper-
qualen, oder aber bimbo feiert ganz ganz perso
¨nlich und ganz ganz privat
sein erfolg, indem er seinen einmann-untergrund ablebt. (85)
Moving into the attack on Gastarbeiterliteratur,onAli-Poetenwho
allow themselves to be used as alibis to maintain the illusion of liberalism
which disguises a capitalist system of state racism, in the following passage
he reveals two of his key intellectual debts: to the traditions of Marcusian-
Marxian cultural critique and to American hardcore rap, the voice of
Black intolerance both towards hypocritical white liberal tolerance and
towards Black middle-class conformity with white liberal values, here rep-
resented by a resounding concluding quote from US rapper Method Man:
die repressive toleranz, einst schlagendes wort der roten in den sixties,
haben die la
¨ngst maß- und formtreuen sistem-linken umgedreht gegens mig-
rantenpack: da du
¨rfen sich nur jene aus den armen massen zur bezahlten
unterhaltung melden, die ne rutsche arm-bin-ich-dran bringen und ne
ehrenrunde humanistenappell, und mehr ist nicht drin. was ist denn mehr?:
daßder/die ausla
¨nderbeauftragte genau son scherge ist wien bulle und daß
man diese funktion bedingungslos beka
¨mpft! daßdie schmierige kapellen-
meisterei der ali-poeten, ihre tra
¨nenlitanei in schrift und geba
¨rde . . . all das
babylonische schiebergesummse und die funklende tropenfeuerexotik u
¨ber
29
Globalkolorit: Multikulturalismus und Popula
¨rkultur, ed. Mark Terkessidis and Ruth Mayer, St.Andra
¨/
Wo
¨rdern 1998, pp. 8597.
Blackwell Publishers Ltd 2002.
190 TURKISH LIVES AND LETTERS IN GERMAN
eins nicht hinwegta
¨uschen kann: all ya bitchas kanaks in zee industry: yours
careers wont be lasting long!
30
man wird euch alle an der halde verdorren
lassen. (88)
In a seminar held in Mainz in December 1999 as part of the proceedings
of a conference on migrant writing in German, Zaimog
˘lu sat at a table
with Franco Biondi, Gino (Carmine) Chiellino, Alev Tekinay and other
representatives of the old schoolof Gastarbeiterliteratur, and loudly
condemned the entirety of their work in similar terms: weinerlich,
wehleidig,anbiedernd. This may help explain why Zaimog
˘lu is absent
from the chapter on the Turkish minorityin Chiellinos important refer-
ence work on Germanysintercultural literature, published in 2000
(although his and Imran Ayatas‘“kanakenhafteSprachprovokationis
briey, and dubiously, mentioned in the introduction);
31
and why he has
apparently never been considered for the Chamisso Prize for non-German
German writers, and is not included in the latest anthologies associated
with that key institution of liberal multiculturalism.
32
The avantgardistic
Oedipal gesture of Ali macht Menschenis arguably weakened by its fail-
ure to name any names,
33
but Zaimog
˘lu compensated for that with the
merciless ad hominem invective of Der smarte Smarties-Tu
¨rke”’,
34
a review
of Green Bundestag member Cem O
¨zdemirs autobiography: ein Gaudi-
paster aus private parts und Pfaffenlall der alleru
¨belsten Sorte;Der
Spa
¨tta
¨uing hat die Sache mit den Sakramenten etwas falsch verstanden
und sa
¨uft seitdem Weihwasser weg.
35
Indeed, searching for precedents
for Zaimog
˘lus headlong style in post-Sturm-und-Drang German writing, I
have found the closest parallels in Christian GeisslersKamalatta, a massive,
immensely subjective chronicle of the lives of members of the armed
resistance(Rote Armee Fraktion) of the 1970s and 80s, composed in a
similarly stylised vernacular.
36
The pose of the social revolutionary and the
wish to reproduce, via the Kanak Attak movement, the conditions of 1968,
30
All ya bitch-ass niggaz . . .: the rocking refrain of Method Man, Release Yo Delfon Tical (Def
Jam, 1994).
31
Interkulturelle Literatur in Deutschland: Ein Handbuch, ed. Carmine Chiellino, Stuttgart 2000, p. 61.
32
E.g. Do
¨ner in Walhalla. Texte aus der anderen deutschen Literatur, ed. Ilija Trojanow, Cologne 2000.
33
Ali is generic, but the other names suggest Yu
¨ksel Pazarkaya, Renan Demirkan, and Aras O
¨rens
Was will Niyazi in der Naunynstrasse, Hamburg 1973.
34
Spex [Cologne], 7 (1997), 545. Spex is a widely distributed magazine about popular music and
culture. Many members of Kanak Attak are or were associated with Spex and the Frankfurt magazine
Die Beute: Zeitschrift fu
¨r Politik und Verbrechen, which has been an important vehicle of the importation
of anglophone cultural studies, post-colonialism and cyber-feminism, and francophone theories of
rhizomatic resistance to the control society.
35
Cem O
¨zdemir [aufgezeichnet von Hans Engels], Ich bin Inla
¨nder. Ein anatolischer Schwabe im Bun-
destag, Munich 1997; see also his Currywurst und Do
¨ner. Integration in Deutschland, Bergisch-Glad-
bach 1999.
36
Christian Geissler, Kamalatta: Roman-Fragment, Hamburg 1988. See Sven Kramer, Die Subversion
der Literatur: Christian Geisslers kamalatta, sein Gesamtwerk und ein Vergleich mit Peter Weiss, Stuttgart
1996. Zaimog
˘lu has told me that he read Geisslers work only after writing Kanak Sprak. But he
also claimed never to have heard of Dursun Akc
¸am, so I put little store by that.
Blackwell Publishers Ltd 2002.
191TURKISH LIVES AND LETTERS IN GERMAN
can only seem grotesque measured against the political realities of the
Berlin Republic. But the will to change society is genuine, and Zaimog
˘lu
has arguably come closer to doing so, as an author, than any of his contem-
poraries. In his hands, literature has once again been an effective con-
sciousness-raising medium, for German-Germansas well as hyphenated
Germansin his audience.
Zaimog
˘lus work has inspired two anthologies of new writing. One is a
hasty, opportunistic Machwerk, edited by the journalist who brought him
to the attention of readers of Die Zeit, including writers who have nothing
to do with migrant experiences, and others who do, but have nothing to
offer the reader but the self-pitying life-writing that Zaimog
˘lu himself had
so clearly condemned.
37
The other is a much more interesting showcase
of writing in a wide range of genres and styles by authors who have nothing
in common but their (or their parents) migrancy from points south and
east of Germany, and their originality, opening with a collaborative provo-
cation by Zaimog
˘lu and the editor: Ihr habt Angst vor unserem Sperma.
38
But his more important impact has been social. The Kanak Attakhe
announced has of course not surfaced as a fully edged social movement,
but an organisation of that name was formed in 1998, and functions as a
national network of anti-racist cultural political activists, accepting mem-
bers of all backgrounds but dominated by migrants. This network might
have come into existence without Zaimog
˘lu, but it is unlikely: for many
recruits, it was encounters with his work, with him in person and with his
(then) associates that led them to this kind of activism.
The groups manifesto –‘Kanak Attak und basta!’–was published in
shortened form in die tageszeitung in 1999,
39
and the group has since staged
diverse infotainmentevents in public venues and nightclubs in Berlin,
Hamburg, Frankfurt am Main, Mannheim, Cologne and other cities, com-
bining music and dancing with political agitation on topical issues that
is, on the points of public controversy which regularly emerge in the
incessant discussions about migration and migrants: reform of the cit-
izenship law in 19989, Green Cardsfor highly skilled foreign workers,
the Leitkulturdebate sparked off by Friedrich Merz, chair of the
CDU/CSU in the Bundestag, and so on. With funding from the Heinrich-
Bo
¨ll-Stiftung, Kanak Attak took over the Volksbu
¨hne in Berlin on 13 April
2001. They staged a multimedia cabaret show devoted to the political and
workplace struggles of the guest-workers, their parents –‘Kanak History
Revue: Opel-Pitbull-Autoput; launched the CD rap single Dieser Song
geho
¨rt uns; and offered a rich menu of lm-screenings, literary readings
(with Emine Sevgi O
¨zdamar, Hasan O
¨zdemir, Sylvia Szymanski and Raul
37
Kanaksta: Von deutschen und anderen Ausla
¨ndern, ed. Joachim Lottmann, Berlin 1999.
38
Morgen Land. Neueste deutsche Literatur, ed. Jamal Tuschick, Frankfurt a.M. 2000.
39
Anon., Kanak Attak und basta! Manifest gegen Mu
¨ltu
¨ku
¨ltu
¨ralizm, gegen demokratische und hyb-
ride Deutsche sowie konformistische Migranten,taz, 28 January 1999. Full text at www.kanak-
attak.de/main.htm (accessed 12 December 2001). This website reproduces interviews and articles
by Kanak Attak members, as well as newspaper reviews of Kanak Attak events.
Blackwell Publishers Ltd 2002.
192 TURKISH LIVES AND LETTERS IN GERMAN
Zelik among others), political and sociological discussions, live music and
dancing until 4 a.m. Most of the audience of around 1,500 were majority
Germans (German-Germans) from Berlins leftist student-age circles.
Berlins Turkish and other migrant (mostly working-class) youth were con-
spicuous by their absence: falsches Publikum, leider, one of the organ-
isers commented to me. But others felt strongly that the point of the event
was to claim new kinds of public space and media attention for a politically
inspired cultural presence of Germans of migrant background; and in this
the event certainly succeeded.
Kanak Attak is controversial within the circles it claims to unite under
its banner, and riddled with internal conict and intrigue. In 1999 one
member, Halil Can (a social worker and seasoned anti-racist activist), left
after complaining (in private) of oppressive structures, exclusionary intel-
lectualism, and racist individual behaviour within the group. He published
a coolly factual article which enraged many members by undermining
their claim to be the sole cultural-political representatives of the young
migrant constituency.
40
Nevertheless, Kanak Attak continues to stir debate,
establish new local groups across Germany, and develop international links
and new projects, achieving a greater level of national visibility than any
other such group not that this is very much, since the structures of
German society militate against any independent self-representation of its
racially discriminated subjects.
Zaimog
˘lu himself fell out with many of Kanak Attaks core activists in
1999, for many reasons including his decision to take that name with a
slightly different spelling for the feature lm based on Abschaum.His
own promotional website is www.kanak-attack.de, while the groupsis
www.kanak-attak.de. While he is now a cultural equivalent of Cem O
¨zde-
mir, sitting beside the politician (and the Sudanese-German television pre-
senter Nadja Abd El Farrag) to be interviewed for the monthly Spiegel
Reporter, under the headline Fremd und deutsch,
41
his former comrades-
in-arms still languish in obscurity. His writing since Koppstoff has sharply
declined in quality. Liebesmale, scharlachrot, an epistolary novel featuring
two young German Turks and their girlfriends, has a feeble plot, and the
stylised Kanaklanguage is far less interesting here, located as it is in
sprawling letters written by ctional characters engaged in a contest of
wits, rather than in the urgent, compact self-narratives of the earlier books;
at most, some of the protagonistsimaginatively elaborate, oriental-style
40
Halil Can, Allemanische Jung-Kanaken betreten das Parkett,Die Bru
¨cke, 107 (1999), 645. See
also Interkulturelle Literatur in Deutschland: Ein Handbuch,ed. cit., pp. 4456. The Naumberger
Kreis, in existence since 1997, unites several campaigning associations. These include the German
membership of the Council of Europe Minority Youth Committees, and the Mannheim-based
group Die Unmu
¨ndigen(allied with Kanak Attak) whose annual street festival, Fest des deutschen
Mitbu
¨rgers, featuring German folk dancing, beer and sauerkraut, and slide-shows of German tour-
ist regions, parodies the patronising format of the routine Fest des ausla
¨ndischen Mitbu
¨rgers.
41
Spiegel Reporter, 2, 25 January 2000, 814.
Blackwell Publishers Ltd 2002.
193TURKISH LIVES AND LETTERS IN GERMAN
insults are quite amusing.
42
Kopf und Kragen, a recent collection of scat-
tered speeches and essays omitting the most outrageous mingled with
unsuccessful parodies of talk-show interviews with imaginary writers, sug-
gests a writer out of steam.
43
In any case, commercial popular culture has overtaken Zaimog
˘lus pro-
ject and is building up a huge body of worthless but lucrative work which
ensures that Kanakgenerally still signies what it always did a deroga-
tory term of racist abuse with the difference that it is no longer taboo
in public discourse. The cultural political impact of his presentation of
Kanak Sprakhas been recuperated by a series of German majority com-
edians who have developed acts in which they impersonate young, stupid,
working-class migrants speaking broken German, a restricted slangy code
peppered with grammatical solecisms, displaying grotesquely sexist, racist
and materialistic attitudes, and glorying in their own ignorance. Mund-
stuhl, a duo from Frankfurt (Ande Werner and Lars Niedereichholz),
paved the way with the characters Dragan und Alder, and Maria Moos-
leitner und Stefan Lust from Munich have made a fortune from radio
shows, CDs, books, and a lm, as Erkan und Stefan.
44
The publisher
Eichborn, in a bid to capitalise on these successes, has recently produced
or announced no fewer than four books and an audio-CD, all attributed
to Michael Freidank, who may exist but is more likely a team of hacks:
Grund- und Aufbauwortschatz Kanakisch; Kanakisch-Deutsch: Dem krassesten
Sprakbuch ubernhaupt; Wem is dem geilste Tuss in Land? Ma
¨rchen auf Kanakisch
un so; Dem SMS-Buch kanakisch; and Kanakisch Deutsch (CD).
45
It is unlikely that this phenomenon would have emerged without the
preceding phase of interest among intellectuals in Kanak Sprak, precipi-
tated by Zaimog
˘lus work and his readings and media appearances, which
lifted the taboo on the word. This popular comedy is symptomatic of
majority German cultures apparently ingrained need to humiliate those
who may be insulted as Kanaken. But it is also true that the wide class
gulf between Zaimog
˘lu or the Kanak Attak core activists, and the typically
unqualied, unemployed Kanakenthey draw attention to, makes a mock-
ery of any notion of a common interest or consciousness of non-German
Germans. In Kreuzberg a few years ago, young Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic
and other non-German, non-white local working-class youth were unim-
pressed when the Kanak Attak group tried to teach them about the ways
in which they are disenfranchised by law and subjugated by global capi-
talism and local multiculturalism. They wanted to know by what right the
name Kanaken, which they and others in urban areas of Gastarbeiterjug-
endconcentration, were rst to use as a self-identier, was being claimed
by university-educated, early-career musicians, journalists, software
42
Liebesmale, scharlachrot, Hamburg 2000.
43
Kopf und Kragen. Kanak-Kultur-Compendium, Hamburg/Frankfurt a.M. 2001.
44
Erkan und Stefan, dir. Michael Herbig, 2000.
45
All titles: Frankfurt a.M. 2001, except Dem SMS-Buch (2002).
Blackwell Publishers Ltd 2002.
194 TURKISH LIVES AND LETTERS IN GERMAN
designers and advertising executives. And now the resident expert on
Berlin youth subcultures at die tageszeitung assures us that: In den einschla
¨-
gigen Kreisen in Kreuzberg ruft man sich u
¨brigens la
¨ngst nicht mehr
Kanake. Neuerdings ist dort Muftien vogue. Das klingt netter und
erfu
¨llt doch den gleichen Zweck: Es verweist darauf, wie man von den
anderen gesehen wird. Noch immer.
46
Though not, it must be added,
with the same potential to make German-Germans self-conscious about
their own use of language.
In this article, Bax disapprovingly compares Zaimog
˘lus claim of street-
wise authenticitywith the self-promotional strategies of writers of the
1990s travelling under the banners of pop-intellectualor Generation
Golf: the latter at least write about their own lives rather than claiming
to speak for anybody else. In an age of merciless competition for success
in the culture industries, and of near-universal post-modernist denial of
any possibility of legitimate cultural representation, Zaimog
˘lus initiatives
were always risky. Letting himself be photographed for newspapers in out-
ts ranging from hip hop ghetto style to Hugo Boss suits, he invited the
parody and insult typied by satirist Wiglaf Drostes attack, under the
undeniably witty title Elefanten im Paul-Celan-Laden (1),
47
which slipped
the knife into
der Kieler Salontu
¨rke Feridun Zaimog
˘lu, dessen Kanak-Sprak, wie er sein
sprachliches Kurzwarenangebot getauft hat, das Bedu
¨rfnis des Kulturbe-
triebs nach Exotik vollkommen widerstandslos befriedigt . . . ein wunderbar
nachgemachter Ghetto-Darsteller featuring Fotzenbart und Siegelring . . ..
Seine Freunde, liest man, nennen ihn Feri. Nicht sogar Feri ultra?
48
But Zaimog
˘lu always anticipated such responses, seeking controversy in
order to gain publicity not just for himself but for a genuine cause. The
struggle against racist exclusion is endless, requiring constantly renewed
efforts to upset majority complacency. For a few years his work was inspi-
rational. In Jamal Tuschicks words, his Emanzipationsschautransformed
what Turkishmeant and what Germanmeant, and not least what litera-
tureand culturemeant:
Die u
¨berschaubaren Mo
¨glichkeiten eines vortragenden Autors dehnte Zaim-
og
˘lu zum performativen Akt. Von Sendungsbewußtsein erhoben, tri-
umphierte er u
¨ber alle Vero
¨dungstendenzen, die den lokalen Literaturbe-
trieb regelma
¨ßig zu einer tru
¨ben Angelegenheit machen. Nach der
Veranstaltung schlossen ihn Leute in einen eifersu
¨chtigen Kreis. Den sollte
keiner durchbrechen, der sich auf tu
¨rkisch nicht ausweisen konnte. Tu
¨rk-
isch, von deutscher Warte eine Sprache der Beladenen, war hier so sexy wie
46
Daniel Bax, Abschwellender Straßenslang,taz, 10 November 2001, xxi.
47
Paul Celan, Elias Canetti and Adalbert Chamisso are the commonly cited examples of major
German writers of non-German mother-tongue and/or ethnicity.
48
taz, 24 July 1998, p. 16.
Blackwell Publishers Ltd 2002.
195TURKISH LIVES AND LETTERS IN GERMAN
sonst bloßEnglisch, die Sprache der Befreiung. Zwischen lauter angesto-
ßenen Sachen pra
¨sentierte sich eine tu
¨rkischsta
¨mmige Jeunesse dore
´e, der
Stil a
`la Italiano. . . . In einem irisierenden Moment erschienen sie wie Astro-
nauten auf Planetensuche. Sie waren, das verstand ich an diesem Abend,
Tra
¨ger wichtiger Zukunftsinformationen. Ihre perso
¨nlichen Verha
¨ltnisse
antizipierten gesellschaftliche Verha
¨ltnisse. Mit ihrer Existenz verknu
¨pfte
sich eine politische Dimension. Diese Avantgarde hatte sich der Mehrheits-
gesellschaft zugewandt. Dort suchte sie ihre Chancen, dort bestand sie auf
Vera
¨nderungen.
49
Comparing the contents of Akc
¸ams book and Kanak Sprak, it is striking
how little changed between 1982 and 1995. Some Turks moved up from
ganz untento the social margins, and Zaimog
˘lus emergence testies to
the development of a Turkish German intelligentsia, but the dominant
tone of all the interviewees in both books is a mix of resignation, despair
and anger at their experiences of German majority society. Kanak Attaks
cabaret at the Volksbu
¨hne included a performance of one of Akc
¸ams
most striking life-story monologues, Ich etwa?, in which Hasan Bozkır
(arbeitslos)introduces himself as follows: Ich bin der Qua
¨lgeist der Deut-
schen. Mit dem Messer in der Hand verfolge ich Frauen, verpru
¨gele Ma
¨n-
ner.He goes on to list acts of vandalism he carries out systematically
because Sie betrachten uns nicht als Menschen. It turns out that his
pathological hatred is rooted not just in work-place exploitation and every-
day humiliations but in the loss of his young brother, his only relative,
who was unable to enter Germany legally and was forcibly returned to
Turkey where he was murdered by die Faschisten.
50
In this character we
see the elder brother of all the casual criminals and ingrained haters of
Germans portrayed by Zaimog
˘lu. In both books, to paraphrase Gramsci,
pessimism of the intellect is only occasionally leavened by moments of
optimism of the will. Criticism of the lack of solidarity displayed by most
socially successful Turks towards those beneath them in the social heap,
one of the most prominent themes in Kanak Sprak, was also already there
in Akc
¸ams editing of the pompous, snobbish migrant doctor, whose
monologue is titled Ich scha
¨me mich, Tu
¨rke zu sein.
51
But the difference
between the alternation of Turkish text and German translation in Deut-
sches Heim, and Zaimog
˘lus multiply hybrid German, drawing more from
English than any other foreign language, more from German dialects and
almost as much from other migrant languages as from Turkish, is emblem-
atic of important advances in the enigmatic ongoing process of arrival
in Germany.
49
Jamal Tuschick, Nachwort: Tra
¨ger von Zukunftsinformation,Morgen Land. Neueste deutsche Litera-
tur, ed. Jamal Tuschick, Frankfurt a.M. 2000, pp. 28391, here pp. 2834.
50
Dursun Akc
¸am, Deutsches Heim Glu
¨ck allein: Wie Tu
¨rken Deutsche sehen, Hanover 1992, pp. 131
6, Turkish pp. 13741.
51
Ibid., pp. 16881, Turkish pp. 18292.
Blackwell Publishers Ltd 2002.
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Zaimoglu has told me that he read Geissler's work only after writing Kanak Sprak. But he also claimed never to have heard of Dursun Akçam, so I
  • Christian Geissler
  • Kamalatta
Christian Geissler, Kamalatta: Roman-Fragment, Hamburg 1988. See Sven Kramer, Die Subversion der Literatur: Christian Geisslers "kamalatta", sein Gesamtwerk und ein Vergleich mit Peter Weiss, Stuttgart 1996. Zaimoglu has told me that he read Geissler's work only after writing Kanak Sprak. But he also claimed never to have heard of Dursun Akçam, so I put little store by that.
  • Ö Cem
  • Zdemir
Cem Ö zdemir [aufgezeichnet von Hans Engels], Ich bin Inländer. Ein anatolischer Schwabe im Bundestag, Munich 1997; see also his Currywurst und Döner. Integration in Deutschland, Bergisch-Gladbach 1999.