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RAT Iowa Conference


Dear Arts Worker:

Please come to Iowa this February

The University of Iowa is hosting a meeting of the Rat Conference Thursday,
Feb. 17 (7:30 PM) – Sunday, Feb. 20 (4 PM). The Rat Conference began at a
winter meeting in Iowa four years ago, and like all homecomings, this
gathering presents an opportunity to look at distance traveled and the way
of the road to go. The event will also be itself, and as usual, a remarkable
group of people is drawing together.

The subject

Theater and War: Uses of Art. Guests are coming from Belgrade, Belfast and
Buenos Aires, to explore means of sustaining life and a receptive
sensibility in the face of atrocity (atrocities new and historic, subtle and
overt). Guests’ local situations provide our meeting with touchstone
questions. They guide and also participate; they are artistic peers who will
represent their work in a communion of laborers. Rat has focused in the past
on esthetic borders and state borders. Let’s go further now to talk about
the congress of art and justice, across international borders.


How is art co-opted and made complicit with oppression? Do theater artists
crave crisis (is conflict essential to our dramaturgy)? What beyond mere
survival constitutes success? How are our rehearsal methods innately
dissident? Do ghost dances work? How may an assembly of theater artists
effectively witness for peace? Agitate for peace? Cause peace? Can artists
communicate globally without participating in the development of a global
monoculture? What are effective models of exchange under duress (so not
simply how do we work, but how do we work together, when resources are

Dissembling: “I have never been in a war. Or I have fought in wars by
simile, by metaphor”

a) If you pay taxes to or otherwise support a government that trains or arms
foreign militaries, if your government sustains an overwhelming threat of
force (perpetuating militaristic syllogisms), then you are at war.
Neutrality, too, can be a battle position. (The US, e.g., trained Guatemalan
and Salvadoran officials responsible for documented cases of rape and
torture through the School of the Americas in Georgia; world-wide we are
involved in disarming by violence those we have armed.) If there is a war
anywhere in the world, then the world is at war?
b) I for one don’t believe war is properly used in a simile or metaphor, and
I want to check my rhetoric constantly, to ensure I support a drama of fact
and not of sentiment. I am in a war, yes, but I have never walked under a
bomb or suffered fear of absolute disappearance. Still, there is much of
immediate, concrete, tactical value I stand to learn from those who have
endured mortal peril.
     All of us work with strong wills to bring a private sense truth to a
common art. We often work to the point of exhaustion, confused about the
identity of our communities, our proper relationship with them, and our
level of effectiveness. Sometimes our public successes represent a perverse
dislocation of our original inspirations. These difficulties manifest
vividly where body and spirit are further challenged by raids, sanctions and
deep coercion. Barter and cunning, strength in exile, precision in chaos,
rehearsal in a culture where authentic performance (enactment, expression)
is repressed… are disciplines I need in my life-school.

Good Guys versus Bad Guys

Dijana Milosevic of Belgrade’s Dah Theater draws our attention to an article
by Fintan O’Toole (see reading list under “War and Aesthetics,” below). O’
Toole reminds us that art’s capacities are as often used on behalf of
corrupt authority as they are to critique it. Our craft is not de facto

The Deal

Make your way to Iowa City and we will feed you and shelter you by means of
hospitable donation. I do not take lightly the trouble you may have in
finding transportation; do not take lightly the earnestness of my
invitation. I am contacting you, and asking you to make this sacrifice,
because I have faith in the value of this particular intersection of
     Housing may mean a spare room in someone’s house, or a sofa (preference
list follows). If are able, or would prefer to secure your own lodging,
suggestions are also included. If you cannot make the trip at all, please
feel free to contribute to the shape of the agenda, and to participate in
the dialogue that will follow the meeting.

The Rat Conference is…

A loose affiliation of theater artists committed to sharing work and ways of
working. More of an ethical network than a professional one, we put
ourselves in one another’s presence under grace of hospitality (we are
mostly broke in many senses, and rely on a loaves and fishes route to
abundance). Our common esthetic is roughly Big-Cheap – “big” in the sense of
blissfully impossible, and unstoppable. “Cheap” as in impecunious as well as
tawdry (the quality so effectively championed by Mac Wellman). “Rat” doesn’t
mean anything; anyone at any time bears complete responsibility for its
direction. Define it by contrary means in conversations with strangers; we
must not be found out, even by ourselves.

“I am not a member”

You are if you say you are. Exchange hospitality with a fellow artist to
cement the deal.


How might our topic and the questions surrounding it be clarified,
amplified? Do you have suggestions for the reading list? Who else should
come? Invite who you will – the food will stretch but the donated beds are
finite; have people get in touch with me before they come.


Erik Ehn
30 Via Barranca
Greenbrae, CA 94904
See you there



 The following is a reading list put together by Susanne Greenhalgh, whom I
met at the Br/leeding Ground conference in Wales this past October. The
event treated themes similar to those we are engaging at Iowa, and was
organized by Magdalena – sort of a woman’s international Rat.
Representatives of Magdalena will be with us in February.

Adorno, Theodor (1969) The Authoritarian Personality New York: Norton
Arendt, Hannah (1958) The Human Condition London and Chicago: University of
Chicago Press
Blanchot, M. (1986) The Writing of the Disaster tr. A. Smock Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press
Carlton, Eric (1990) War and Ideology London: Routledge
Chambers, I. (1994) Migrancy, Culture, Identity London: Routledge
Coker, Christopher (1994) War and the Twentieth Century: A Study of War and
Modern Consciousness London and Washington: Brasseys
Coker, Christopher (1998) War and the Illiberal Conscience New York:
Westview Press
Commaroff, John L. and Paul Stern (1995) Perspectives on Nationalism and War
New York: Gordon and Breach
Davies, Jon (1994) “Rewriting Enmities: War and War Memorials, the Boundary
Markers of the West,” History of European Ideas (July) Vol.19 issues1-3,
De Landa, Manuel (1991) War in the Age of Intelligent Machines New York:
Zone Books
Deleuze, G. and F. Guattari (1986) tr. B. Massumi Nomadology: The War
Machine New York: Semiotext(e)
Ehrenreich, Barbara (1997) Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions
of War London: Virago
Eksteins, Modris (1989) Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the
Modern Age New York: Anchor/Doubleday
Elias, Norbert (1977) The Civilizing Process Oxford: Basil Blackwell
Elias, Robert (1986) The Politics of Victimization: Victims, Victimology and
Human Rights New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press
Foucault, M. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews ed. C. Gordon Brighton:
Freedman, Lawrence, ed. (1994) War Oxford: Oxford University Press
Fussell, Paul (1975) The Great War and Modern Memory London: OUP
Griffin, Susan A Chorus of Stones
Harvey, D. (1990) The Condition of PostModernity: An Enquiry into the
Origins of Cultural Change Oxford: Blackwell
Ignatieff, Michael (1998) The Warrior’s Honor: Ethnic War and the Modern
Conscience London: Chatto & Windus
Kagan, Donald (1995) On the Origins of War London: Hutchison
Keegan, John (1993) A History of Warfare London: Hutchison
Keegan, John (1987) The Mask of Command New Haven: Yale University Press
Keegan, John (1998) War and Our World: The Reith Lectures, 1998
Lawrence, Philip K. (1997) Modernity and War: The Creed of Absolute Violence
London: Macmillan
Mosse, George L. (1991) Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of the World
Wars Oxford: OUP
O'Connell, Robert L.(1997) Ride of the Second Horseman: The Birth and Death
of War, Oxford: Oxford University Press,
Pick, Daniel (1993) War Machine: The Rationalisation of Slaughter in the
Modern Age New Haven and London: Yale University Press
Scarry, Elaine (1985) The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World
Oxford: Oxford University Press
Shapiro, Michael J. (1997) Violent Cartographies: Mapping Cultures of War
University of Minnesota Press
Shay, Jonathan (1995) Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of
Character New York: Touchstone Books
Smith, Jeff (1989) Unthinking the Unthinkable: Nuclear weapons in Western
Culture Bloomington: University of Indiana Press
Terraine, John (1980) The Smoke and the Fire: Myths and Anti-Myths of War
1861-1945 London: Sidgwick and Jackson
Virilio, P. and S. Lotringer (1983) tr. M. Polizzoti Pure War New York:
Walzer, M. (1977) Just and Unjust Wars Harmondsworth: Penguin
Wilden, A. (1987) The Naming of Parts and the Twentieth Century War London:
Routledge & Kegan Paul
Wilden, A. (1987)The Rules are No Game: the Strategy of Communication
London: Routledge & Kegan Paul
Winter, Jay ( 1995 ) Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in
European Cultural History Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Adorno, T. (1951; 1987) Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life tr. E.
Jephcott London: Verso
Barker, Howard (1993) Arguments for a Theatre 2nd ed. Manchester: Manchester
University Press
Baudrillard, Jean (1982) “Our Theater of Cruelty” in Semiotext(e): The
German Issue New York, 108-114
Berghaus, Gunter (1996) Fascism and Theatre: Comparative Studies in the
Aesthetics and Politics of Performance in Europe, 1925-1945 Providence:
Berghahn Books
Bhabha, Homi (1984) “Of Mimicry and Men: The Ambivalence of Cultural
Discourse” October 28: 25-33
Blau, Herbert (1982) Take Up the Bodies: Theater at the Vanishing Point
Urbana: University of Illinois Press
Blau, Herbert (1990) The Audience Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press
Bond, Edward (1991) “Commentary on The War Plays” London: Methuen
Buck-Morss, Susan (1992) “Aesthetics and Anaesthetics: William Benjamin’s
Artwork Essay Reconsidered” October 62 (fall), 3-41
Cantor, J. (1981) “History as Theater: or Terror and Sacifice” in The Space
Between: Literature and Politics Baltimore and London: John Hopkins
University Press
Case, S. and J. Reinelt, eds. (1991) The Performance of Power: Theatrical
Discourse and Politics Iowa City: University of Iowa Press
Dahl, M. (1987) Political Violence in Drama: Classical Models, Contemporary
Variations Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press
Eagleton, T. (1990) The Ideology of the Aesthetic Oxford: Blackwell
Gilbert, Helen (1995) “Dressed to Kill: A Post-Colonial Reading of Costume
and the Body in Australian Theatre” in Gainor, J. Ellen ed. Imperialism and
Theatre: Essays on World Theatre, Drama and Performance London: Routledge,
Girard, R. (1977) Violence and the Sacred, tr. P. Gregory, Baltimore and
London: Johns Hopkins University Press
Girard, Rene (1991) A Theater of Envy Oxford: Oxford University Press
Greenhalgh, Susanne (1990) “The Bomb in the Baby Carriage: Women and
Terrorism in Contemporary Drama” in J. Orr and D. Klaic, eds. Terrorism and
Modern Drama Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 160-183
Harvey, A.D(1998) Muse of Fire: Literature, Art and War
Hochhuth, Rolf (1963) “Should the Theater Portray the Contemporary World?”;
in Herzfeld-Sander, M. (1985) Essays on German Theater New York: Continuum,
Howard, Tony and John Stokes (1996) Acts of War: The Representation of
Military Conflict on the British Stage and Television since 1945 Warwick
Studies in the European Humanities Aldershot: Scolar Press
Jameson, F. (1983) The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially
Symbolic Act London: Methuen
Jameson, F. (1991) Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism
Durham: Duke University Press
Kenwood, A. ed. (1993) The Spanish Civil War: A Cultural and Historical
Reader Providence RI: Berg
McIntosh, Flora (1994) Dying Acts: Death in Ancient Greek and Modern Irish
Tragic Drama Ireland: Cork University Press
Munk, Erika (1993) “Notes from a Trip to Sarajevo” Theater 24:3, 15-30
O’Toole, Fintan (1999) “Cultures, Art and Conflict” Dublin: City Arts Centre
Paret, Peter (1997) Imagined Battles; Reflections of War in European Art
University of North Carolina Press
Read, Alan (1993) Theatre and Everyday Life: An Ethics of Performance
London: Routledge
Reinelt, Janelle (1996) Crucibles of Crisis: Performing Social Change Ann
Arbor: University of Michigan Press
Schneider. Rebecca (1997) The Explicit Body in Performance London: Routledge
Steiner, G. (1961) The Death of Tragedy London: Faber & Faber
Stiles, Kristine (1992) “Survival Ethos and Destruction Art” Discourse 14:2
(spring), 74-102
Stites, R. (1998) “Trial as Theatre in the Russian Revolution” Theatre
Research International vol. 23: 1, spring, pp.7-13
Taylor, Diana (1991) Theatre of Crisis: Drama and Politics in Latin America
Lexington: University Press of Kentucky
Taylor, Diana (1997) Disappearing Acts: Spectacles of Gender and Nationalism
in Argentina’s “Dirty War” Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press
Virilio, P. (1989) War and Cinema: The Logistics of Perception tr. P.
Camiller London: Verso
Warwick, Paul (1997) “Theatre and the Eritrean Struggle for Freedom: The
Cultural Troupes of the People’s Liberation Front” New Theatre Quarterly
51:13, August, 221-230

Benjamin, J. (1980) “The Bonds of Love: Rational Violence and Erotic
Domination” Feminist Studies 6:1 (spring), 144-74
Bourke, Joanna (1996) Dismembering the Male: Men’s Bodies, Britain and the
Great War London: Reaktion Books
Bourke, J. (1998) An Intimate History of Killing
Cooke, Miriam ed. (1993) “Wo-man: Retelling the War Myth” in Gendering War
Talk Princeton N,J: Princeton University Press, 177-204
Cooke, Miriam ed. (1993) Gendering War Talk Princeton N,J: Princeton
University Press
Cooke, Miriam (1997) Women and the War Story Princeton: Princeton University
Cooper, H. et al eds. (1989) Arms and the Woman: War, Gender and Literary
Representation Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina University Press
Elshtain, Jean Bethke and Tobias, Sheila eds. (1990) Woman, Militarism and
War New York: Rowman & Littlefield
Elshtain, Jean Bethke(1987; rev.ed.1995) Women and War: With a New Epilogue
Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Huston, N. "The matrix of war: mothers and heroes," in S. Suleiman ed. The
Female Body in Western Culture: Contemporary Perspectives, Cambridge, Mass:
Harvard University Press, 119-36
Jeffords, S. (1989) The Remasculinization of America: Gender and the Vietnam
War Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press
Macdonald, S., P. Holden and S. Ardener, eds. (1987) Images of Women at War
and Peace: Cross-Cultural and Historical Perspectives, London: Macmillan in
association with Oxford University Women's Studies Committee.
Morgan, R. (1989) The Demon Lover: On the Sexuality of Terrorism London:
Ouditt, Sharon (1994) Women, Identity and Ideology in the First World War
London: Routledge
Pauw, Linda Grant de (1998) Battle Cries and Lullabies: Women in War from
Prehistory to the Present University of Oklahoma Press
Ranald M. Loftus (1998.) “War, Male Contact Sports, and the Flight from
Women” Theatre Research International vol. 23: 1, spring, pp.59-68
Ridd, Rosemary and Helen Callaway eds. (1986) Caught Up in Conflict: Women’s
Response to Political Strife London: Macmillan with the Oxford Women’s
Studies Committee
Theweleit, K. (1987) Male Fantasies vol. 1; Women, Floods, Bodies, History
tr. S. Conway Cambridge: Polity Press
Theweleit, K. (1989) Male Fantasies vol. 2: Male Bodies tr. S. Conway
Cambridge: Polity Press
Vickers, S. (1993) Women And War London: Zed Books

Performing Arts Journal (1996) 53 vol. 8, issue 2 ( special section on
theatre and the Bosnian War)
Theatre Research International vol. 23: 1, spring (special issue on civil

? Own room, private house
? Share bedroom, private house okay
? Sofa okay
? I can secure my own lodging
? I can secure my own lodging, and donate the second bed in a double
occupancy room
? Interested in the group rate deal (see below)
Other notes:
Let us know when you plan to arrive and we can arrange for transportation
from the airport.

? Vegetarian
Other dietary requirements:

Below, a partial list of places to stay, assembled by R.A. Wray, a UI
student helping us out on this project.
Hotel/Motel (Walking distance)
Haverkamp, 319-337-4363; $40/single – $45/double per night
Alexis Park Inn, 319-337-8665; $34.95/ single – $59.95 for a 3 bedroom per
City Plaza, 319-337-4058. GROUP RATES. This is the best deal so far: $89.00
for 4 people per night provided we have a group of at least 20 there.
Iowa House, 319-335-3513. These guys have group rates also, but they haven't
gotten back to me to let me know exactly what those rates are. I'm guessing
it's similar to City Plaza but I'll let you know when I find out. About
$70.00 per room on average per night.
B&B (Walking distance)
Golden Haug, 319-354-4284; $75-99.00 per night
Bostick Guest House-319-354-2453
Brown Street Inn-319-338-0435
Haverkamp B&B-319-337-4363-$40-45 per night.
Coralville Motels (A short drive)
Best Western-319-351-0400-$99 per night I think.
Comfort Inn-319-351-8144-$56.70 for single/$63.00 for double.