Was deutsch ist, bestimmen wir: 1 Definitions of (Turkish-) Germanness in Feridun Zaimoğlu s Kanak Sprak and Koppstoff. - PDF

FOCUS ON GERMAN STUDIES Was deutsch ist, bestimmen wir: 1 Definitions of (Turkish-) Germanness in Feridun Zaimoğlu s Kanak Sprak and Koppstoff FRAUKE MATTHES Introduction C hildren of former Gastarbeiter

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FOCUS ON GERMAN STUDIES Was deutsch ist, bestimmen wir: 1 Definitions of (Turkish-) Germanness in Feridun Zaimoğlu s Kanak Sprak and Koppstoff FRAUKE MATTHES Introduction C hildren of former Gastarbeiter are still often perceived as Turks or foreigners. They do not seem to be granted a German identity and largely remain at the margins of German society. However, while these prescribed margins are, on the one hand, not accepted, they are, on the other, embraced by those in the German Turkish community who challenge and, consequently, redefine the center of the German mainstream they are living amongst. This article 2 focuses on the self-portrayal of young male and female German Turks in Kanakistan, einem unbekannten Landstrich am Rande der deutschen Gesellschaft, as Feridun Zaimoğlu puts it in his Kanak Sprak: 24 Mißtöne vom Rande der Gesellschaft (1995) (2). This collection of protocols of allegedly authentic interviews with German Turks and its female pendent, Koppstoff: Kanaka Sprak vom Rande der Gesellschaft (1998), center around young German Turkish men and women whose identity is often rendered as being different. As a result, they often see themselves as angry young men and women in an essentially foreign environment. 3 In this article, I ask whether the oppositional discursive strategy of Zaimoğlu s interlocutors, their verbal expression of deliberate difference, is part of the re-definition of (Turkish-) Germanness, and, if so, how (Huggan 20). I argue that Zaimoğlu s characters appropriate their position at the margins of society beyond general perceptions of Germanness and Turkishness. I thereby examine how the female Kanaka and the male Kanaken (and with these terms I follow Zaimoğlu s generalization of his interviewees) create their own spaces of belonging, with a particular focus on language and performativity. 20 DEFINITIONS OF TURKISH-GERMANNESS IN ZAIMOĞLU As Foreigners Among and Against the German Mainstream Judith Butler s exploration of (gender) performativity serves as a valuable tool to describe how these young German Turks redefine their identities. The notion of acting out a particular role is significant here. According to Butler, [p]erformativity is [ ] not a singular act, for it is always a reiteration of a norm or set of norms, and to the extent that it acquires an act-like status in the present, it conceals or dissimulates the conventions of which it is a repetition (Bodies That Matter 12). The young men and women portrayed in Kanak Sprak and Koppstoff tend to struggle against the mainstream s perception of them within normative roles such as that of the exotic Oriental or foreigner, or the radical, young Muslim and the submissive, veil-wearing Turkish woman. Yet they are also aware of their situation at the margins of society and consciously deal with these margins by re-appropriating and subverting those prescribed roles. 4 On the one hand, these German Turks perceive margins as a bygone experience they have forced their way into the centre (the consciousness of the mainstream) on the other hand, they purposefully use these margins as a liberated position from where they can challenge the center. Zaimoğlu s group of German Turks or Turkish Germans rejects margins as an exoticizing element. I use the terms German Turks and Turkish Germans interchangeably, and I use them in order to differentiate the men and women Zaimoğlu interviewed from mainstream Germans. I am aware of the complexity of this, as any, dichotomy, but will refer to it throughout this article as it is also applied in Kanak Sprak and Koppstoff. The writer makes the problematic issue of the margin explicit by describing a variety of German Turks in his preface Kanak Sprak to his first volume. Here Zaimoğlu lists the different roles Kanaken can play and breaks the group that the German mainstream superficially perceives as a collective group of foreigners or Turks into subgroups and individuals: Über einen Zeitraum von zwölf Monaten gelang es mir, das Spektrum weit zu öffnen: vom Müllabfuhr-Kanaken bis zum Kümmel-Transsexuellen, vom hehlenden Klein-Ganeff, dessen Geschenke ich nur mühsam zurückweisen konnte, bis zum goldbehängten Mädchenhändler, vom posenreichen Halbstarken bis FOCUS ON GERMAN STUDIES zum mittelschweren Islamisten. Sie alle eint das Gefühlt [sic], in der Liga der Verdammten zu spielen, gegen kulturhegemoniale Ansprüche bestehen zu müssen. Noch ist das tragende Element dieser Community ein negatives Selbstbewußtsein, wie es in der scheinbaren Selbstbezichtigung seinen oberflächlichen Ausdruck findet: Kanake! Dieses verunglimpfende Hetzwort wird zum identitätsstiftenden Kennwort, zur verbindenden Klammer dieser Lumpenethnier. Analog zur Blackconsciousness-Bewegung in den USA werden sich die einzelnen Kanak-Subidentitäten zunehmend übergreifender Zusammenhänge und Inhalte bewußt. Die Entmystifizierung ist eingeleitet, der Weg zu einem neuen Realismus gelegt. Inmitten der Mainstreamkultur entstehen die ersten rohen Entwürfe für eine ethnizistische Struktur in Deutschland. (Kanak Sprak 16-7) I read Zaimoğlu s allegedly anthropological approach and ethnicization of the Kanaken as a deliberate form of subversion: it is the beginning of the self-imposed exclusivity that many of the Kanaken aim at because they do not want to be mistaken for mainstream Germans or for assimilated Turks. However, Kanaken is not an exclusive term for German-Turks and can include everybody who is politically active in race-related issues. As Tom Cheesman has argued: Kanak is a parody identity, a flagrantly artificial and intentionally slippery construct: Zaimoğlu denies that only Turkish Germans or German Turks, or only ethnically non-german German denizens and citizens can be Kanaken or Kanakstas [which is a combination of the words Kanake and gangster, thus emphasizing the fight -aspect of this identity; F.M.]. Instead it is a political category: Viele Deutsche sind Kanakstas. Du bist in dem Moment Kanaksta, wo du die Gesellschaft durchschaust. The launch of Kanak as a cultural label aimed to make visible the artificiality and rigidity of the conventionally ascribed identities derived from the history of colonialism and of post-colonial migrations. (187) 22 DEFINITIONS OF TURKISH-GERMANNESS IN ZAIMOĞLU Being of Turkish origin himself, Zaimoğlu seems to focus on German- Turks in Kanak Sprak and Koppstoff. They are all united in the struggle against cultural hegemony which gradually transforms a negative selfperception into a positive one. Stuart Hall points out that it is always about shifting the balance of power in the relations of culture; it is always about changing the dispositions and the configurations of cultural power, not getting out of it (468). The Kanaken shift this power by breaking (Turkish-) German culture into subidentities. 5 This is based on the fight against Mültikültüralizm (the Kanak Sprak term for multiculturalism ) (manifesto of Kanak Attak 1). 6 The Kanaken therefore criticize homogenizing tendencies amongst both the mainstream and any subculture. 7 Part of this subversion process is the re-appropriation of the term Kanake. Similarly to the term nigger, it is usually used pejoratively to describe a gap between foreigners and the mainstream (for the Kanaken, this is the German mainstream). However, Zaimoğlu as well as most of his interlocutors, redefine this term as a means of expressing a proud difference from the German population. In the Hawaiian/ Polynesian language kanaka means human being or man, and denotes the native population of the South Sea Islands (particularly New Caledonia). 8 During immigration processes to Germany, the German word Kanake gained a derogatory meaning and now refers to immigrants and foreigners, originally of Italian, Greek and Spanish descent, but is now more commonly used against immigrants of Turkish and Arab descent. 9 Similarly, the word Kümmel (derived from the pejorative expression Kümmeltürke), which seemingly restricts the identity of German Turks to their allegedly high consumption of cumin, is deliberately used to ridicule this perception of Turks as people who strongly smell of spices. I also regard Fremdländer as opposed to the more commonly used Ausländer as a deliberate form of protest: Kanaken who use this word make the mainstream aware of its deliberate and ridiculous detachment from people of a different background. Yet despite the fact that Zaimoğlu freely appropriates these terms to label the young German Turks he supposedly interviewed, some Kanaken have identified potential problems with this specific form of identification: it is still often perceived as a racist term and thus an insult. 10 Furthermore, some German Turks feel that their identity as Kanake has been constructed by the writer Zaimoğlu. As translator, writer and allied fighter he takes advantage of his power as editor and molds the interviews of his interlocutors into works of art (Skiba FOCUS ON GERMAN STUDIES ). The creation of his Kanak Sprak and the label Kanake associated with this language is Zaimoğlu s artificial construct. 11 Despite the fact that the texts are based on interviews whose recordings Zaimoğlu deleted, he creates fiction to suit the purpose of his self-representation. In his preface to Kanak Sprak, Zaimoğlu claims to have recorded the language of authentic German Turks (13-5), yet simultaneously makes clear that he manipulated the material for his protocols: Kanak(a) Sprak is no longer the language of real-life German Turks (Pfaff 220). The style in Kanak Sprak and Koppstoff seems, therefore, to be Zaimoğlu s rather than his interviewees style and the question arises whether these books (as a form of self-staging) are more about himself than about the Kanaken. Zaimoğlu acts as a filter in Kanak Sprak and Koppstoff. He did let the Kanaken/Kanaka speak for themselves when he interviewed them, yet we are reading his and not his interlocutors direct words. In that sense, Zaimoğlu offers consciously created Nachdichtungen (Kanak Sprak 15), since he wants to identify closely with both his male and his female interlocutors. His firm pretense of authenticity reveals his agenda: to be seen as a mouthpiece for young German Turks, beyond gender boundaries. However, many interlocutors in Zaimoğlu s texts do not allow themselves be labeled Kanake, and instead create their own, individual labels. 12 Neologisms such as Starkfrau (Nesrin, 24, Rapperin und Street-Fighterin; Koppstoff 13) and Kanak-Weib (Aynur, 34, Künstlerin; Koppstoff 34) often include both a feminine and a strong component. These are individual titles and used like proper names which suggests a reaction against belonging to a group. 13 The Kanaka s linguistic innovations also point out their individual performances as young German Turkish women. In this context, one can refer to Butler when she asks: What does it mean for a word not only to name, but also in some sense to perform and, in particular, to perform what it names (Excitable Speech 43). The Kanaka probably do not consciously perform according to their own labels, yet they certainly refer to themselves according to how they feel they act, and, in that sense, perform what they name. Whatever labels they use, they put themselves in clear opposition to mainstream German women, whom they call, for example, Sauertopf-Frauen, deutsches Liebchen, and diese Bundesfrauen (Esra, 19, Abiturientin; Koppstoff 117, 119). By labeling themselves they assert their own power 14, their newly-appropriated selfdefinition, in deliberate delimitation to other, non-kanak women. Zaimoğlu s interlocutors seem to be accustomed to being different: as Akay says, Den Fremdländer kannst du nimmer aus der 24 DEFINITIONS OF TURKISH-GERMANNESS IN ZAIMOĞLU Fresse wischen (Akay, 29, vom Flohmarkt; Kanak Sprak 23). The parents of young German Turks came to Germany as foreigners and usually remained in that position. Growing up in Germany, their children often tried to become German, but then had to realize that the mainstream still regarded them as foreign. Zaimoğlu s protagonists have learned to accept this label as something that one has to deal with and ultimately be proud of. On the basis of this new sense of belonging to difference, it seems that young German Turks negotiate a number of ways of looking for alternative spaces of belonging. Furthermore, there tends to exist a deep mistrust for anything German amongst children of former immigrants, which may be based on their parents humiliating Gastarbeiter-history; hence they have no desire to be like Germans. As Büyük Ibo puts it: Den deutschen traust du nich übern weg, weil sie, die haben durchblick in ne andre richtung, und da willst du ums verrecken nich hin (Büyük Ibo, 18, Packer; Kanak Sprak 45). This attitude implies a reversal of old imperial patterns and a repuzzling of history as a means to create security and new self-esteem (Güngör/Loh 58). 15 Mimicry by which I mean the effort to integrate, to become like Germans as the state expects them to occurs to a limited extent only and exclusively as a means to an end: Germany is only desirable as a dwelling place; its values are re-appropriated as deliberate difference and otherness by a generation that feels more consciously excluded than their parents. One of Zaimoğlu s interviewees, Hasan, for example, expresses this feeling: Auch mit der familie und auch mit nem namen bleibst du ein bastard, du hast krause haare und benimmst dich nicht wie die deutschen, denen das licht längst ausgegangen is, du hast was vor, aber ne menge arschlöcher möchten dich aus der gegend haben, und wenn du dich nicht wehrst, kappen sie dir die leitung und machen dich zur dunklen memme [...]. (Hasan, 13, Streuner und Schüler; Kanak Sprak 93) For most of Zaimoğlu s interview partners, opposition to the alemannen becomes the determining factor in their self-positioning. Interestingly, the choice of word for the Germans derives from Turkish (alman) but is linguistically Germanized another form of subversion. Zaimoğlu s interlocutors make clear linguistically who has the (linguistic) power; they have the advantage of being bi- or even multilingual (often in contrast to their parents) and are able to show disrespect for the FOCUS ON GERMAN STUDIES Germans who possibly do not understand the term alemannen, or at least where it comes from. They seem to want to show their discontent with the way they are misjudged and underestimated in their social surroundings. The Kanaken make clear that they are part of Germany, but not in the sense of being assimilated: they define themselves by rejecting Lieb-Alileins, Alemannen and Deutschländer. This urge to find an exclusive space away from assimilation might also be the result of a general exclusion from Turkey where Germanized Turks are often referred to as alamancı, Deutschländer, a pejorative term for Turkish people who live in Germany and who, in the eyes of their family and friends in Turkey, have Germanized over the years and thus do not belong to Turkey any more. Zaimoğlu s Kanaken/Kanaka constantly challenge socially established ways of being a foreigner or Kanake (cf. Culler 513): Ein bastard ist ein bündel aus irrationalismen, er hat eine abseitige mystik, die ihn zutiefst beunruhigt, er sieht zeichen und wunder, wo keine sind, weil er sich stets auf fremden terrain bewegt. Man sagt dem bastard, er fühle sich unwohl, weil zwei seelen bzw. zwei kulturen in ihm wohnen. Das ist eine lüge. [...] Der bastard braucht keine politur, er verpaßt sich schon selbst mehrere schichten lack, damit er nicht auffällt wie ein gescheckter hund. Der kanake ist so etwas wie ein synthetisches produkt, das sich und die fabrik haßt, in dem es gefertigt wurde.... er hat den blick für das, was sich hinter den kulissen abspielt. [...] Er ist darauf dressiert, zum kern vorzustoßen, deshalb verschmäht er die hülle. Also der kanake ist zugleich ein fundamentalist. (Memet, 29, Dichter; Kanak Sprak 110-1) Memet s attitude implies a notion of choice, a play with gaps left behind by socially accepted roles and the reality of being a foreigner. His use of the term bastard refers to Kanaken as in-between subjects and defines their marginality, which can be both a creative and restrictive position. It involves a constant struggle with identity. Yet this kind of identity-negotiation creates possibilities for resistance and change (Culler 514). As social outsiders (in response to the significant growth of the Turkish middle class), (Cheesman 184) the Kanaken react against assimilation. However, there often is an element of living up to exotic images involved in the interaction with the mainstream which can be 26 DEFINITIONS OF TURKISH-GERMANNESS IN ZAIMOĞLU seen as a different kind of assimilation: das gastarbeiterkind macht halt auf kulturkreissymptomatischen ethnoquark [ ]: etwas nigger etwas harlem etwas oriental magic (Zaimoğlu, KümmelContra 175). This pick-and-mix attitude of the child of the former Gastarbeiter is the initial reaction to the problematic of defining an identity under the pressure of the mainstream. It is only after a process of gaining selfconsciousness that s/he becomes a Kanake/Kanaka. In whatever way they choose to represent themselves, they prove that their in Butler s words reality is performative which means, quite simply, that it is real only to the extent that it is performed (Excitable Speech 411). 16 Part of the demonstration of opposition is the young German Turks conscious living of their gang culture. Gangs or posses are a significant aspect in the process of defining identity for Zaimoğlu s male protagonists. Groups provide a sense of belonging, a sense of strength within the group, strength against others, and security in a hostile environment. Gangs are part of a masculine world, a gangsta culture. 17 As Zaimoğlu indicates in his preface: Am öffentlichen Leben in den Szenen der Kanaken-Ghettos nimmt hauptsächlich der Mann teil, der Frau dagegen wird bedeutet, sie habe sich aus der männlichen Welt herauszuhalten (Kanak Sprak 15). Male exclusivity is expressed in terms of forming gender-specific groups and at the expense of women. Women, particularly Western women as well as prostitutes, are only regarded as fair game, as an exchangeable trophy (Mennel 150), and are only passively part of the men s activities. 18 This represents a return to gender stereotypes and the idea that (physical) fighting is exclusively masculine behavior, an attitude which is also represented by the constant reference to drugs, crime and violence: gangs operate in an Unterwelt (Kadir, 32, Soziologe; Kanak Sprak 100) where the struggle between power and law plays out (Foucault 87). Many of the Kanaken deliberately break any law as an expression of their identity and of a fight against klein-ali-träume (Faruk, 26, arbeitslos; Kanak Sprak 74), namely the dream of making it in Germany (which automatically means observing the law). However, this form of assimilation would mean submitting to the German mainstream and ultimately becoming weak: Die erste devise heißt: der hahn kräht nur nach dem starken (Cem, 25, Zuhälter; Kanak Sprak 54). Living in the city demands the survival of the fittest which is personified by the Kanakster as a new and effective strategy of survival (Hestermann 364). However, bell hooks points out that the role of the aggressive, ethnically different young man is less a choice than is usually thought, FOCUS ON GERMAN STUDIES but rather a product of white male patriarchy (204). The question is whether the Kanaken follow the media image of the radical young Turk subconsciously or consciously recognize the street as the only place where they can become visible. The street is the place of struggle for Zaimoğlu s male characters, yet that does not mean that the image of the radical you
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