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Memphis and the Paradox of Place

Memphis and the Paradox of Place: Globalization in the American South

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  • Book Info
    Memphis and the Paradox of Place
    Book Description:

    Celebrated as the home of the blues and the birthplace of rock and roll, Memphis, Tennessee, is where Elvis Presley, B. B. King, Johnny Cash, and other musical legends got their starts. It is also a place of conflict and tragedy--the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1968 assassination--and a city typically marginalized by scholars and underestimated by its own residents. Using this iconic southern city as a case study, Wanda Rushing explores the significance of place in a globalizing age.Challenging the view that globalization renders place generic or insignificant, Rushing argues that cultural and economic distinctiveness persists in part because of global processes, not in spite of them. Rushing weaves her analysis into stories about the history and global impact of blues music, the social and racial complexities of Cotton Carnival, and the global rise of FedEx, headquartered in Memphis. She portrays Memphis as a site of cultural creativity and global industry--a city whose traditions, complex past, and specific character have had an influence on culture worldwide.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0554-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. 1-8)

    This book is about a place called Memphis. Its purpose is twofold. First, it aims to create a global/local context for developing a better understanding of the concept of place in the social sciences. It does so by relating accounts of confrontations and collaborations involving real people in a particular southern place to regional and global processes. The second aim is to bring about a better understanding of a specific place—Memphis, Tennessee. The Mississippi River city, typically marginalized by scholars and underestimated by its own residents, can be seen as a dynamic center of economic productivity, cultural innovation, and...

  5. 1 GLOBALIZATION & THE SOUTH Memphis and the Paradoxes of Place
    (pp. 9-33)

    Memphis, Tennessee, is a remarkable city located in the southern United States, a region associated with a history of disruptions, traditions, cumulative disadvantages, and dramatic transformations. Memphis, like the region, has its own history of disruptions, traditions, and transformations, as well as paradoxes. More than one hundred years ago, nineteenth-century Memphis survived the Civil War with little damage, only to be decimated a few years later by recurring yellow fever epidemics. Memphis became an “iconic” American place in the mid-twentieth century because of the city’s identification with an innovative popular music that crossed racial divisions. But the city suffered setbacks...

  6. 2 NEITHER OLD SOUTH NOR NEW SOUTH Memphis and the Paradoxes of Identity
    (pp. 34-63)

    Memphis lies in the far southwest corner of Tennessee on the east bank of the Mississippi River. The city gets its name from the ancient capital of Egypt on the Nile River and has been described as the “Metropolis of the American Nile.”¹ Egyptian-themed symbols ornament a few prominent public spaces reminding residents of the city’s namesake. The Pyramid, a 321-foot-high pyramid-shaped stainless steel sports and concert arena, with a statue of Ramses positioned in front, overlooks the Mississippi River, where nearby, the M-shaped Hernando de Soto Bridge carries 1-40 traffic from Tennessee to Arkansas. At the Memphis Zoo, located...

  7. 3 URBAN SPACE & PLACE Memphis and the Paradoxes of Power
    (pp. 64-83)

    Downtown Memphis, situated on the bluffs of the east bank of the Mississippi River, overlooks the river and a floodplain on the west bank. Because of natural, geographic barriers west of the city, growth, development, expansion, and annexation have followed an eastern course. Currently, the city’s land area encompasses approximately three hundred square miles of sprawl and includes core areas known as downtown, midtown, North Memphis, South Memphis, and East Memphis. Suburban communities north, east, and south of the city extend into and beyond Shelby County, crossing county and state borders. Consequently, space relations between the downtown riverfront and the...

  8. 4 COTTON FIELDS, CARGO PLANES, & BIOTECHNOLOGY Memphis and the Paradoxes of Development
    (pp. 84-119)

    Geographic location is one characteristic of place fundamental to understanding the economic structure of Memphis and the city’s role as a major distribution node in the global economy. Memphis plays a prominent role, not only because of the city’s central east-west geographic location in the continental United States and its north-south location equidistant between Toronto, Canada, and Monterrey, Mexico, but also because of its two-hundred-year history of place-specific decisions, activities, and transformations. The city’s geographic location on the bluffs of the Mississippi River near the rich cottonproducing region of the Mississippi Delta and an abundance of hardwood forests and natural...

  9. 5 GLOBALIZATION & POPULAR CULTURE Memphis and the Paradoxes of Innovation
    (pp. 120-152)

    No other city in the South “derives its sustenance and character so completely or from such a large area of farm lands and little towns.”¹ Yet this rural-minded city lacking Old South traditions and aristocratic pretensions, as well as New South achievements, repopulated by members of an “impoverished and subjugated rural underclass” after yellow fever epidemics, created the “global popular music of the mid-twentieth century.”² A unique combination of placespecific cultural resources, technological innovation in recording, the rise of independent radio, and entrepreneurial vision transformed Memphis into an urban center of a global popular culture in the 1950s. But the...

  10. 6 GENDER, RACE, RITUAL, & SOCIAL POWER Memphis and the Paradoxes of Tradition
    (pp. 153-186)

    Carnival Memphis, sponsor of an annual festival involving the coronation of a king and queen, presentation of a royal court, a salute to business and industry, and support for local charities, celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary in June 2006. Members of the original Carnival association organized in 1931 during the throes of the Great Depression. They intended to showcase Memphis to the region and the world as a modern, progressive city capable of hosting a festival promoting commerce, community, and celebration. Carnival founders included the presidents of the Retail Clothiers Association, the Cotton Exchange, and the Junior League. Supported by the...

  11. 7 PLACE MATTERS Continuity and Discontinuity
    (pp. 187-198)

    Many studies of globalization and cities focus on the “flattening” of the world, the homogenization of culture, and the demise of place distinctiveness. This book, however, analyzes qualities that make “place” distinctive, cumulative, durable, and meaningful. The overarching concern of this project is to show that place matters by presenting a narrative case-study analysis of one resilient southern city. Memphis, anchored in global flows of technology, culture, people, and goods, reveals the complexity of local and global processes intertwined in the production of locality and in urban transformations.

    A city created by nearly two hundred years of investment, labor, conscious...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 199-218)
    (pp. 219-240)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 241-259)