The United States relies increasingly upon digital technologies and live-virtual mixed-reality environments to prepare for, pursue, and recover from asymmetrical war. However, Iraqis and Afghans modeled in such systems are structurally excluded from occupying their “first-person-shooter” viewpoints. This essay recasts Emma Willis’s use of Levinasian ethics and Judith Butler’s proposal that war’s framing excludes certain subjects from full humanity to address the obstacles and opportunities for ethical spectatorship that virtual war’s structural occlusions pose to theatre. It does so by investigating how two recent US plays, George Brant’s Grounded and Christine Evans’s You Are Dead. You Are Here., which incorporates Virtual Iraq and was written by this essay’s author, interrogate virtualized war to reframe and restage absent Iraqi and Afghan perspectives and human consequences. The essay argues that despite their achievements, the “hero’s journey” structure of both plays, in concert with the wider public framing of war via the military-industrial-entertainment network, nevertheless reframed the Other as a vehicle for the Western soldier-subject’s cathartic crisis. Expanding on Doreen Massey’s vision of space as multiple trajectories rather than a depthless surface, the essay concludes that thick mapping, such as that modeled by the Digital Archive of Japan’s 2011 Disasters (JDA), offers new options for performances engaging virtualized war, allowing them to de-couple narrative structure and spectatorship by generating heterotopic and heterogeneous interpretative spaces.


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pp. 663-686
Launched on MUSE
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