Martyr's Local: Publicity, Counterpublicity, and Kairos in Marion, NC, 1929

This paper analyzes the labor uprising and subsequent massacre that took place in Marion, North Carolina in 1929. This chapter will be analyzing primary sources like period newspaper articles, statements from labor, operators, and the state, as well as any other relevant archival evidence found. Utilizing the rhetorical theories of publicity, counterpublicity, and kairos, we will be examining the instances of violence in Marion in 1929 as articulations of subjectivity from marginalized persons who found no discursive space for themselves in union discourse or establishment (owners/state/law enforcement) discourses. That is, there were instances in which individuals acted violently when their own demands or desires were not being heard, per se, and a thus a counterpublic discourse was formed that was articulated through acts of violence. This is made clearer when one considers that both the establishment and the union also used violence as discursive tactics in various ways. Kairos plays a key role here helping us to understand the opportune nature of this subaltern violence. This paper contributes to conversations within the field discussing the nature of power and powerlessness within the region, specifically thinking through how individuals can rhetorically animate resistance. This discussion of violence and its rhetorical efficacy further complicates much of rhetorical theory which traditionally posits violence as arhetorical. Instead, this project argues that violence functioning rhetorically as a means of articulating and asserting subaltern or marginalized subjectivity. By bringing history, rhetorical theory, and Appalachian Studies together, this paper furthers the field’s interdisciplinary project.