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Transcript of Jonestown Prezi
Jacqueline J. Schiappa
Department of Writing Studies
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities Peoples Temple November 18th, 1978 Research Question Theoretical Framework The Gap What rhetorical elements are present in the discourse of Jim Jones? Persuasive?
Coercive? Research Design Fin. Archival Case Study
Method: Rhetorical Analysis
Jonestown Tapes 1978 One of hooks' most compelling arguments is that sites of marginalization can function as spaces of resistance and bonding for disempowered communities (Foss, Foss & Trapp, 2002; hooks, 1990). Peoples Temple represented a community actively working against various forms of oppression, but even so their solidarity belonged to Jim Jones. hooks writes that the function of the critic is inspired by "that vital engagement with our work that is critical, that dares to lovingly unmask, expose, challenge," for such work "is a gesture of respect; it indicates that the work has been taken seriously" (hooks, 1992, pp.54-55). I respect and mourn the deaths of those who died in Guyana; I hope that this project can be both academically diligent and morally graceful as I seek to better understand the sociorhetorical character of what occurred.
Feminist Theory: Intersectionality Morality Contextuality Feminist Lens (1973) (1967) Historicizing a Social Project (Re)Tracing Trajectories The scholarly contributions of an archival case study come from the usefulness and insight found through the process of explanation and understanding. What rhetorical elements are present in the discourse of Jim Jones? Yet when I think of individuals in the revolution, I cannot predict their survival. Revolutionaries must accept this fact, especially Black revolutionaries in America, whose lives are in constant danger from the evils of a colonial society. Considering how we must live, it is not hard to accept the concept of revolutionary suicide.
Huey P. Newton
"We committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world."
Jim Jones, “Death Tape,” 1978 Timeline 1931 - Jim Jones is born
1954 - Brown v. Board of Education Topeka decision
1955 - Peoples Temple founded
1955 - Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat in Montgomery, Alabama
1960 - SNCC founded
1961 - The Freedom Rides
1963 - Gov. Faubus calls the National Guard to Little Rock to block integration
1963 - March on Washington for jobs and freedom, MLK's I have a Dream
1964 - The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Betty Friedan publishes The Feminine Mystique
1965 - Jim Crow laws end
1965 - The Voting Rights Act of 1965
1965 - Malcolm X is assassinated
1967 - S. Carmichael and C. Hamilton publish Black Power
1968 - Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated, affirmative action includes gender
1968 - First Black woman (Shirley Chisholm D-NY) is elected to U.S. Congress
1969 - Mark Clark and Fred Hampton (of the Black Panthers) are killed by police
1970 - Peoples Temple & Jones' popularity in the press peaks
1972 - Congress passes the Equal Rights Amendment
1973 - Roe v. Wade
1972 - First expose on Peoples Temple & Jones
1977 - Portions of Peoples Temple members move to Guyana
1978 - Mass murder-suicide of 918 Peoples Temple members in Guyana Revolutionary Suicide and Black Violence
Why socially and politically caring individuals gave their lives to Jim Jones remains unfathomable without contextualizing their project. In what has since been titled "The Death Sermon" or "The Suicide Transcript", Jim Jones' stated, "You can't take off with people's children without expecting a violent reaction. And that's not so unfamiliar to us either. . .The world (inaudible) suffers violence, and the violent shall take it by force. If we can't live in peace, then let's die in peace" (The Jonestown Institute, tape Q042). He then asked his members to "lay down our lives to protest at what's being done."
His last recorded words were, "We didn't commit suicide, we committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world" (emphasis added).
Consider the former alongside Huey P. Newton's points in his book Revolutionary Suicide, published five years prior to the mass murder-suicide in Jonestown, Guyana. In an explanation of what he means by "revolutionary suicide", Newton writes,
The concept of revolutionary suicide is not defeatist or fatalistic. On the contrary, it conveys an awareness of reality in combination with the possibility of hope--reality because the revolutionary must always be prepared to face death, and hope because it symbolizes a resolute determination to bring about change. Above all, it demands that the revolutionary see his death and his life as one piece. (1973, p.6).
Newton argues that Blacks seeking to change the conditions of oppression must first realize that the systems in place to enact such changes are incapable of accommodating them. Even Black politicians "cannot be relied upon to make forceful demands in behalf of their black constituents," they "nullify any bargaining power the black community might develop" and remain in the white power structure (Carmichael & Hamilton, 1967, p.10). The possibility for Blacks during this time to imagine a civically fair and rewarding life devolved in response to a racist system. Opportunities to effect change in meaningful ways did not realistically exist, nor did the hope that such change could occur within the lifetimes of those seeking it. As such, revolutionary action emerged as an increasingly viable option, one in which the vision of equality remained tangible, even if only for generations of the future. I have little interest in making payment to the academic registers of anti- or pro-cultist works, for although they are of great interest, talent and relevance, they are not of the same trajectory that I hope this project will be a part of. Most texts discussing Peoples Temple, Jim Jones, and Jonestown originate from an interest in cults and then their functions/characteristics, as opposed to a preceding interest in discursive power followed by locating a useful point of departure for new critical and/or rhetorical scholarship in Jones' sermons. Alla Tovares is a linguistics professor who has examined the relationship between language and social understandings of Peoples Temple; Tovares also contributed an article to the Jonestown Institute's archive titled “Reframing the frame: Peoples Temple and the Power of Words." According to Tovares, describing Peoples Temple's project as a "cult" negatively frames the organization and lacks a thoughtful and complex understanding. She writes, "When someone refers to members of Peoples Temple as a "cult" and "brainwashed," she or he frames them as deprived of agency and intelligence. In so doing she or he not only dehumanizes them, but also frames them as "others," (2009). I agree with Tovares on many points, save one. The members of Peoples Temple were, are, already Othered. Indeed it is within or around such Otherness that scholarship on the subject of Peoples Temple lacks. The oppressed subject positions of Peoples Temple members are crucial components of the organization's formation, purpose, growth and death. It is because we fail to recognize and forefront the Othering that most Peoples Temples members experienced throughout their lives that we deny and devalue their agency and intelligence. Peoples Temple published an ad in the Oakland Tribune in 1975 describing itself as “a genuinely effective deterrent to despotism and tyranny from any side that threatens our free society. Thus we have assumed a great social responsibility by developing a conscientious program that provides for ever need in the lives of our entire membership, form the cradle to the great transition” (Spiritual Healing, 27E). Journalist Mark Clutter (1975) of the Independent Press-Telegram even described Peoples Temple as having “eliminated racism” (11A). By 1975 the Peoples Temple was known for housing for the elderly, rehabilitating drug users, pursuing an agricultural mission, providing refuge for homeless animals, crusading for freedom of the press, and finding time to worship, produce music, and host social events (Clutter, 1975). That same year a multi-denominational organization “Religion in America” named Jim Jones one of the 100 most outstanding clergymen in the nation (“Jones Named Outstanding Clergyman,” 1975).