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

A biography of the city of Elvis Presley, Isaac Hayes, Stax Records, and FedEx

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.

“At once an important contribution to the burgeoning literature on cities and globalization and a terrifically insightful interpretation of the River City’s history. In this fine work, Wanda Rushing opens up Memphis to the world.”
—Peter A. Coclanis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“Beautifully written and elegantly theorized. It powerfully illustrates how the concept of place can be used to tell the history of a special southern city and how, in particular, that city is able to maintain its singular identity in the face of the gale force winds of globalization.”
—Anthony Orum, University of Illinois at Chicago
The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture:
Volume 15: Urbanization--by the University of North Carolina Press
This volume of The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture offers a current and authoritative reference to urbanization in the American South, surveying important southern cities individually and examining the various issues that shape patterns of urbanization from a broad regional perspective. Looking beyond the post-World War II era and the emergence of the Sunbelt economy to examine recent and contemporary developments, the forty-eight thematic essays consider the ongoing remarkable growth of southern urban centers, new immigration patterns (such as the influx of Latinos and the return-migration of many African Americans), booming regional entrepreneurial activities with global reach (such as the rise of the southern banking industry and companies such as CNN in Atlanta and FedEx in Memphis), and mounting challenges that result from these patterns (including population pressure and urban sprawl, aging and deteriorating infrastructure, gentrification, and state and local budget shortfalls). The 31 topical entries focus on individual cities and urban cultural elements including Mardi Gras, Dollywood, and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Wanda Rushing is a professor of sociology at the University of Memphis. She is author of Memphis and the Paradox of Place: Globalization in the American South. Charles Reagan Wilson is Kelly Gene Cook Sr. Chair in History and Professor of Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi. He is coeditor, with William Ferris, of the original Encyclopedia of Southern Culture.
Wanda Rushing, Ph. D
Professor of Sociology
Dunavant University Professor
Wanda Rushing
Dr. Rushing's primary research interests include the political economy of development, racial and social inequality, and globalization in the American South. She is the author of Memphis and the Paradox of Place: Globalization in the American South, published in 2009 by The University of North Carolina Press. In 2010 she received the College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Research Award from the University of Memphis.