Carnegie Mellon University

Waco Decade: A Rhetorical Study of Commemorative Discourse

Author: Chris Eisenhart
Degree: Ph.D. in Rhetoric, Carnegie Mellon University, 2003

This study is a rhetorical analysis of how texts written by different authors, in different genre, enter into a common commemorative process. I use discourse analysis to study a variety of accounts of the Waco conflict from 1993. My central question is: What can we learn about commemoration through a case study of commemorative accounts of Waco.

In response to this question this study offers the following kinds of contribution:

I consider uses of commemoration other than the design of public memorials, the paradigm cases of commemoration. In Chapter 1, I discuss the potential for studying non-paradigmatic commemorative texts. I argue that the analyses throughout demonstrate the ways commemorative accounts participate in a commemorative process that complicates the apparently univocal quality of the monument as the paradigm case of commemoration.

I consider what these commemorative accounts are doing from the micro-rhetorical level of linguistic choice to the macro-rhetorical level of discursive practice. This work focuses on how commemorative accounts represent what happened at Waco, as the means to argue for who or what is responsible for Waco, and, what changes in action, attitude, or policy are necessary in light of Waco. The discussion of this analysis runs throughout the central chapters.

I consider commemoration at the level of social process by looking across the individual discursive practices and texts. This theme emerges through the course of the dissertation, culminating in Chapter 5, in which I discuss the interaction among these commemorative accounts of a controversial event.