A New German, singularly Turkish. Reading Emine Sevgi Özdamar with Derrida's 'Monolingualism of the Other'

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The works of the Turkish-German writer Emine Sevgi Özdamar (1946–) perform an unusual blend of German and Turkish cultural and linguistic repertoires that defies their easy subsumption under the category of Turkish-German migrant literature. Özdamar's poetic deterritorialization of German by a Turkish subtext and the fantastical elements in her narratives disrupt any mimetic reading of them as representations of the life of migrants, something the term ‘migrant literature’ is still associated with. At the same time, her texts are clearly autobiographically inspired, with migration as a major theme. They, thus, equally foreclose readings that would ignore the autobiographical dimensions of her texts, which make them also in particular ways narrations of a self. In this article, I read Özdamar with Derrida's notion of a ‘Monolingualism of the Other’, which stresses that one's mother tongue is neither property nor essence, but a ‘natural habitat’ and expression of the ‘body of an irreplaceable singularity’. Grafting multiple linguistic and cultural registers onto one poetic (German) mother tongue, Özdamar works out a singularly Turkish ‘new’ German beyond any melancholic lingering between two nations. Her texts perform in Derrida''s sense monolingual-of-the-other narrations of self and challenge us to see beyond a migrant caught between nations or languages. We rather witness a German ‘diffracted’ through Turkish, and in this, practices of landing somewhere new and of charting a present with and alongside others.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)969-987
Number of pages18
JournalTextual Practice
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


  • Özdamar
  • literary theory
  • Derrida
  • singularity
  • transnational literature


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