Kanake (or Kanaker) is a derogatory word used in German-speaking countries. Originally common as "Kanakermann" among 19th century mariners to refer to comrades from the South Pacific (and later all of Southeast Asia), and carrying a connotation of praise for their seafaring abilities, it was in the 1960s transferred with more ambiguous connotations to Southern European immigrants, and is now usually used with an exclusively derogatory connotation against people of Turkish or Middle Eastern ancestry.
The word is originally derived from the Hawaiian word for human, kanaka. Until 2009, several rough translations of the word "Kanak" were admitted : "man", " animal man ", " wild man " being the most used. In its resolution n°5195, the Academy of the Polynesian languages Pa ' umotu specified a definition more faithful to the primal Polynesian language Mamaka Kaïo of origin, that of " free man ".
Much like as is the case with the terms nigger or queer in English, Kanake has been co-opted by some Turks and used proudly as a term of self-identification. In that context, Kanak Sprak is a term used for the German dialect and manner of speech used among Turks in modern Germany. However, it is not comparable with words such as "nigger" or "queer/fag" in a semantic sense, as these are referring to race and sexual identity respectively, while "Kanake" refers to "foreignness" and in this sense it is therefore a nationalistic derogatory term, not a racist term unless co-opted as such.
Despite this, the word is often used in Hip-Hop, films (e.g. Kanak Attack) or in common language as a modified synonym to Nigga. Similar to the use of "Nigga" in the United States, this is often done to emphasize a flamboyant manner, violent tendencies, an affinity to crime and a status as an outcast from society, both used as a derogatory term and by young Turks and other minorities themselves.
Some claim that the vernacular use of the word may be on the decline. In an interview on 26 February 2006 with the German weekly Die Welt, German-Turkish author Feridun Zaimoğlu was asked if the word Kanake still appeared in contemporary language. Zaimoğlu answered, "That is over. Also pleasant!" In his first book Kanak Sprak 1995, Zaimoğlu attempts to express the authentic, tough, and subversive power of slang language spoken by young Turkish male youth in Germany and calls for a new self-confidence.
An example of this self-confident use of the term is "Kanak Attack", an anti-intolerance political group in Germany. In its own publications, the group describes itself as an organization of those who are "kanakisiert" (could be translated as "kanakified") by German main-stream society.
- Trost, Gabriele (2010). "Wissensfrage" (in German). WDR/SWR/BR.