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c h a p t e r f i v e Inventing a Motherless Tongue Mixed Language and Masculinity in Feridun Zaimoğlu racialization and mother tongue in a postmigrant context What happens to the linkage between language and ethnicity in the postmonolingual condition—that is, in a situation of the reemergence of multilingualism against the backdrop of the monolingual paradigm? The changed linguascapes of globalization in particular bring this question to the fore, as people and languages circulate along new paths and commingle in novel ways. Migrations produce multilingual communities and practices, but just as importantly, they quickly begin to produce speakers of languages that are not supposed to be “their own” by right of inheritance. Suddenly there are “Turks of German language,” as one German publication from 1984 declares.1 As this title, belonging to one of the first literary anthologies of the writings of young TurkishGermans , indicates, the seeming disjuncture between “language” and “ethnicity” is intriguing for the German editors of the volume , but it is also a disjuncture that their formulation helps to keep in place. These “disjunctive” speakers, if one will, raise the very question of “nativity” in language. Inventing a Motherless Tongue 170 Through their existence and visibility such speakers reveal that “one’s ‘mother’ tongue is not necessarily the language of one’s ‘real’ mother,” as Etienne Balibar notes with regard to “second generation immigrants” (99). Although this point would appear to be a truism, the mother tongue metaphor has functioned to disavow precisely this discontinuity and, in its place, holds on to the fetishistic fiction of a natural birth into a language. In fact, the unsettling disjuncture between “language” and “ethnicity” that such speakers expose is often warded off by denying nativity to them while claiming it for others on the basis of perceived congruence between the categories. Instances of speakers being told “Du sprichst aber gut deutsch” (But your German is so good!), for example, signal a presumed nonnative relationship to the language . Such exclamations do not just foreclose the claims of other speakers to a rightful relationship to their language, however. Rather, these utterances instantiate, reassert, and safeguard the linkage between a language and an ethnicity in an everyday reproduction of the structure of the monolingual paradigm. The speakers who come to live out this ambivalent structure today, the “second-generation immigrants,” do not so much mark the phenomenon of migration as that of the aftermath of migration. Some cultural agents in Germany thus refer to them as “postmigrants.”2 What does migration, after all, mean to children and grandchildren who did not themselves move from one country to another yet continue to be conceived under the sign of this phenomenon rather than as fully belonging in the new home as fellow citizens? This situation appears specific to nation-states such as Germany that have not conceived of themselves as “countries of immigration” and therefore lack inclusive categories for all their residents and even citizens.3 Yet the category “postmigrant ” might be analytically useful in any context in which subjects and communities are considered under the sign of migration rather than arrival and settlement. The experience of Hispanics in the United States, for instance, shares many points of contact with that of Turkish-Germans, particularly in their—at times— contested relationship to their languages.4 These commonalities Inventing a Motherless Tongue 171 have much to do with the essentialization of real or imagined linguistic difference in processes of racialization. The position of the postmigrant reveals once again that the monolingual paradigm does not simply assert that a subject can only have one true language but also that this language has to correspond to particular ethnic properties. The link between language and ethnicity, in other words, is always shadowed by racialization . In that way, the postmigrant potentially occupies a position vis-à-vis the monolingual paradigm that has similarities with that of Kafka—that is, of a “monolingualism of the Other” (Derrida). Yet in contrast to the force of nationalism ruling Kafka ’s time and place, the postmigrants of a transnational age do not necessarily remain in such a monolingualism but rather may actively mix multiple languages. Growing up with multiple languages from the beginning, rather than belatedly becoming bilingual—as Tawada and Özdamar did—young postmigrants tend to make creative use of these often socially unequally situated languages. In the process, they create new collective codes, such as the much-studied Rinkeby Swedish , the multilingual youth language drawing on Swedish, Turkish...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780823249305
Print ISBN
9780823241309
MARC Record
OCLC
821726236
Pages
208
Launched on MUSE
2012-09-04
Language
English
Open Access
N
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