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

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

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

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

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

I’d rather be there than any place I know.

— W. C. Handy, “Beale Street Blues”

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 social change. the book is based on an interdisciplinary narrative case-study approach to capture the complexities of Memphis, a remarkable southern place, and explain its global significance.

Memphis is known in some circles as the “home of the blues” and “the birthplace of rock and roll.” the title of Robert Gordon”s book about Memphis music, It Came from Memphis, makes important connections between a place called Memphis and cultural innovation. Anyone who has listened to Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line,” Elvis Presley’s “That’s Alright, Mama,” Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Great Balls of Fire,” Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay,” Booker T. and the MGs’ “Green Onions,” or Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man” may know that these recordings came from Memphis. Most people, however, who shop in a modern supermarket, spend the night at a Holiday Inn, take a Di-Gel tablet or St. Joseph’s Aspirin, apply Coppertone sunscreen and Maybelline cosmetics, wrap a present in Cleo giftwrap, or receive an overnight package from Federal Express have no idea that these innovations also came from Memphis.

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