Improvising Kanak Sprak: Feridun Zaimoğlu’s Freestyle Forms and the Politics of Belonging


  • Jonas Teupert University of Melbourne



Public discourse often excludes the erroneous speech of migratory subjects, thus foreclosing social and political rapprochement. This paper argues that the position outside of pregiven, linguistic norms provides migratory speech with an improvisatory quality that can serve as a catalyst for community formation. Simulating freestyle forms in writing, Feridun Zaimoğlu’s Kanak Sprak seeks to find a new language for the critique of xenophobia and to establish belonging based on precarious conditions. In a close reading of Fikret’s monologue “Pity is that true vitamin,” I show how improvisation disrupts established discourses and transforms the meaning of conventional hate speech tropes to forge transethnic alliances. The paper then turns to the subsequent volume Koppstoff and problematizes the commodification of Kanak speech in neoliberal pop culture. Çağıl’s monologue “If you’re smart, you take our side” hints at a different understanding of improvisation that reframes the relation between mainstream society and its others. Drawing on critical improvisation studies, the paper contributes to the understanding of linguistic interventions into social orders that determine who can say what, in which speech form, and according to which norms of belonging.

Author Biography

Jonas Teupert, University of Melbourne

Jonas Teupert teaches German literature, culture, and language at The University of Melbourne. He received a PhD in German Studies with a designated emphasis in Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley in 2021. Afterwards, he was an Assistant Professor at the National Taiwan University for two years. His research addresses questions of displacement in literary form, bringing nineteenth-century German authors into constellation with migratory writing in a digital age. His publications include articles on refugee representations in literature (Senthuran Varatharajah) and film (Fatih Akin) as well as a book chapter on Heinrich von Kleist’s fables.




How to Cite

Teupert, J. (2024). Improvising Kanak Sprak: Feridun Zaimoğlu’s Freestyle Forms and the Politics of Belonging. Konturen, 13.