An Interdisciplinary Symposium on

Civil Liberties through the Prism of
Franz Kafka’s The Trial


The Zelazo Center

2419 E. Kenwood Blvd.

UWM March 29 , 2008

8:30 am- 12 noon

Free of Charge

Sponsored by
UWM Comparative Ethnic Studies Program

The Milwaukee Mask & Puppet Theatre
(sponsor group in formation)

In the wake of the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act and successive episodes of illegal wiretapping and extraordinary rendition, this symposium convenes on the occasion of the Milwaukee Mask & Puppet Theatre’s presentation of an adapted version of Franz Kafka’s The Trial. Kafka’s tale of a man arrested and executed on charges, which are never revealed to him, has powerful resonance for our times. The Ballad of Josef K dramatizes that the degree to which a society restricts individual rights and privacy has psychological, sociological, spiritual and aesthetic consequences. This symposium proposes to investigate the complex outcomes from the imposition of "necessary" restrictions on individual liberties. The symposium integrates theatrical expression with scholarly and public policy analysis of the tension between individual liberty and collective security.

The symposium convenes with an address by the Honorable Senator Russell Feingold, lone dissenter on the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001. Following Senator Feingold‘s address there will be an interdisciplinary panel made up of scholarly commentators from numerous disciplines addressing the issues raised by the tension between civil liberties/privacy and national security. Finally, a plenary session will bring academic participants together with members of the Milwaukee Mask & Puppet Theatre and the audience to discuss the central issues raised.


Senator Feingold will be introduced by Rita Cheng, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee




The Panel Presentations:

"Why Kafka Hesitates"

Marcus Bullock


"Even though The Trial tells a story of persecution, it is clear that Kafka did not write his novel in the same spirit as, say, George Orwell’s 1984.  The narrative remains insistently ambivalent about the relationship between the individual and institutions of authority. An important part of its literary value depends on a subtlety of language that constantly preserves a degree of uncertainty about Joseph K.’s guilt and innocence. The form in which Kafka raises this question has nothing to do with any overt act for which K. could be held accountable.  It asks us to consider his competence – and that of any modern individual – to judge his own situation correctly, and his right to speak and act in the way he chooses.  This has produced an ongoing controversy among his critics and interpreters between those who see him as an essentially
conservative author unwilling to break away from a theological understanding of human obligations, and those who see him as closer to the modern spirit of individuality that sets itself against the threat of irrational power.  Whereas Orwell’s narrator sees exactly how authoritarian practices deprive an individual of his or her freedom, the narrator of The Trial does not know the answer when, for example, the Chaplain screams at K. “Can’t you see one pace before you?”  For this reason, Kafka is able to give us a unique insight into the anxieties that modern and secular ideas of freedom and of individual rights produce in those who remain attached to an ancient tradition of law."

The third Violinists:  Blacklisted Women, the FBI,

and the Political Logic of Contamination
Carol A. Stabile



In the early 1950s, some twenty-five years after Kafka’s The Trial was written, progressive writers, producers, and actors (particularly women, Jews, and people of color) working in the broadcast industry in the United States began to find themselves submitted to a process that was as mystifying as it was destructive of lives and careers. Some were given no reason for their inability to work in the broadcast industry, while others were told simply by networks and studio executives that they might “embarrass” their employers by causing “protests and probably trouble” (Erik Barnouw, 1970: 19). This presentation will look at the logic of contamination employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the blacklisting organizations that fronted for the FBI’s anti-communist crusades, especially American Business Consultants, an organization founded and run by three former FBI agents, who had themselves been trained as part of the Red Squad that operated in New York City. One of the founders of American Business Consultants described their approach to identifying potentially subversive cultural workers as the “third violinist theory” of contamination in which, presumably, even those remote from cultural production could affect the “music” that was played by the first violinist through an indirect exercise of influence. Using declassified FBI files, blacklisting publications, and other archival sources, this presentation analyzes the masculinist fantasies and projections of fear that formed the basis for these anti-communist crusades.


The Paradox of Genocidal Rape

Aimed at Enforced Pregnancy

Claudia Card


It is widely recognized that mass rape policies can be genocidal, whether the women raped are killed or not. One such policy in the former Yugoslavia, which aimed at enforced pregnancy, poses a logical puzzle: how can rape, enforced pregnancy, and resulting births annihilate a people, or even be intended to? To that the puzzle I propose a solution, drawing on journalist Beverly Allen's insight that such use of sperm is biological warfare but not relying on her idea that the rapists mistakenly thought they were producing little Serbs.





Biographical information:



Rachel Ida Buff (symposium organizer) teaches History and Ethnic Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She is the editor of the forthcoming Immigrant Rights in the Shadows of U.S. Citizenship (New York University Press, 2008). She also works with Voces de la Frontera, a workers' center and immigrant rights advocacy group in Milwaukee.

Marcus Bullock (panalistrecently retired from the English Department of UWM, where he previously held appointments in Comparative Literature and German.  His scholarship has covered a number of essays on Kafka's writing, on problems in translating him, and the response to him in the German-speaking world.  His publications also include: Romanticism and Marxism, and The Violent Eye:  Ernst Jünger's Visions and Revisions on the European Right; he was co-editor of the Harvard edition of Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings 1913-26."

Claudia Card (panalist) is the Emma Goldman Professor of Philosophy at University of Wisconsin- Madison, where she is also Affiliate Professor in Jewish Studies, LGBT Studies, Women’s Studies, Affiliate Professor in Environmental Studies.  Her specialties include: Ethics (Kant, character, virtues & vices, evil); social & political philosophy (justice; crime & punishment); feminist philosophy; environmental philosophy; lesbian culture.  She is author of The Atrocity Paradigm: A Theory of Evil (Oxford, 2002), The Unnatural Lottery: Character and Moral Luck (Temple 1996), Lesbian Choices (Columbia 1995), and more than 100 articles and reviews.


Carol Stabile (panalist) teaches media studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is the author of Feminism and the Technological Fix (1994) and White Victims, Black Villains: Gender, Race, and Crime Stories in US Culture (2006). She is currently writing a book on women writers and the blacklist in television



The Milwaukee Mask and Puppet Theatre: In recent years the company has collaborated with Theatre X, (Loss of Breath: The Unfinished Life and Death of Edgar Allan Poe, and The Apollo of Bellac), with First Stage Children's Theatre, (Einstein: Hero of the Mind , Stones of Wisdom, and Smoldering Fires) with the Milwaukee Public Theater (The Dream Carnival), and with the Milwaukee Dance Theatre (Fair and Balanced) Over the last decade they have toured extensively in the Milwaukee area. Their shows are eclectic featuring many styles of puppets including hand puppets, small 12 inch to enormous 18 foot rod puppets, 10 to 15 foot tall backpack mounted puppets, marionettes, and tabletop bunraku and full sized bunraku puppets and varied masks.


Max Samson (puppet director) joined the Bread and Puppet Theatre of New York in 1969. In 1972-73 he built puppet shows while living in Israel where he founded the Heavy Bulky Puppet Company and performed throughout Israel and toured Europe performing The Epic Saga of Captain Classic. He returned to Milwaukee in 1973 and was a founding partner of Century Hall where he did theater with Paul Sills and puppetry with the Carnicus festival. He retired from a career in the business sector to devote himself to playing with dolls and for the past 15 years he has been Artistic Director of Milwaukee Mask & Puppet Theatre.


Rob Goodman (director) founded First Stage Children’s Theater, Wisconsin’s premiere professional theater for young people and families in 1987 as the Producing Director. Before starting First Stage, he directed at a number of theaters around the country including Playmakers Repertory Theatre in Chapel Hill, North Carolina for two years and eight years at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. Rob’s directing work at the Milwaukee Rep focused on new play development in their Court Street Theater. He has continued the development of new plays at First Stage by commissioning over 25 new plays and working with playwrights James DeVita, Kermit Frazier, Stephen Dietz, Kevin Kling and Y York directing her play, River Rat and Cat at the Provincetown Playhouse in New York City. Rob received an MFA in directing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has served as Vice President of ASSITEJ-USA, the national organization of professional theatres for young audiences, and is a member of Actors Equity Association and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.


John Schneider (writer) is a founding member of Theatre X, the experimental theatre which closed at the end of 2004 after 35 years of internationally acclaimed productions. He was the company’s artistic leader, resident playwright, and frequent director. He is the founder and director of Project Non-Violence, in which he guides inner city teenagers to create original plays for their peers on subjects of consequence to their lives. Since 1999, he has been a part-time faculty member of the Theatre Program of Marquette University, teaching advanced scene study, playwriting, play analysis, theatre history, and disciplines of movement. He directs, acts, and writes for Marquette. Since 2000, he has received an Artist in Communities grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board, an Edward D. Simmons grant and a Dean’s Award from Marquette, a President’s Award from St. Norbert College, and an Outstanding Crime Prevention Award from the Milwaukee Exchange Club for Project Non-Violence.




To Reserve Your Seat for the Symposium:  RSVP:


2 for 1 Tickets to the Saturday, March 29th, 4PM  Matinee will be available to Symposium Attendees.