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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter April 11, 2022

Digging Holes and Building Walls: Spatial Imaginations of the Law in Stories by Franz Kafka and Rachel Shihor

Dana Schmalz
From the journal Pólemos


Stories shape our thinking about legal relationships and the challenges of law. This paper is interested in the ways, in which spatial constellations are imagined in connection with the law. It analyzes selected stories by Franz Kafka and Rachel Shihor alongside each other. Legal themes permeate these stories. Their fictive dialogue brings forth contrasting imaginations of community, universalism, and human limitations. Starting with their variations on the Tower of Babel story, the paper then discusses Kafka’s “The Great Wall of China”, “Before the Law”, and “The Burrow”, as well as Shihor’s “The Bridge”, “The Bus”, “The Door”, and “Questions”. These stories illuminate Kafka’s and Shihor’s rich, narrative vocabulary of spatial imaginations of the law, and the fruitful contrast of their perspectives.

Corresponding author: Dana Schmalz, Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg/Berlin, Germany, E-mail:

Published Online: 2022-04-11
Published in Print: 2022-04-26

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