Bethany Moreton, who grew up in Oxford and is now a professor at the University of Georgia, has a book out titled To Serve God and Wal-Mart. I saw a brief article about it in LIke the Dew: A Journal of Southern Culture and Politics, which talks about the impact of WalMart on Oxford:
The Mississippi native hails from Oxford, which changed dramatically after welcoming a Wal-Mart in the 1980s as part of a mall project.
Before Wal-Mart, Oxford’s square was a place of “public culture” where people of all backgrounds met and talked and spent money at the hardware or fabric store.
Today, businesses offering the basics are gone, done in by Wal-Mart, Moreton says.
“Now, the downtown square in Oxford is full of high-end retail,” she says. “It’s not integrated. The integrated place is the Wal-Mart on the edge of town.”
But Wal-Mart is a poor substitute for the old square because it is private; non-business activities, like political activism, are forbidden.
“It’s kind of supplanted the public square, and in doing so I think we’ve lost some of the space in which important public culture happens,” Moreton says. “That’s troubling.”
Current Wal-Mart executives did not talk to Moreton for the book. Instead, she interviewed retirees from all levels of the company.
Moreton’s father planted the idea for the book when she returned home several years ago and they shopped at Wal-Mart.
“Wal-mart presented itself as such an ideal container for so many stories that shaped the last 50 years,” she says. “It gave me a way to look at a lot of interrelated cultural and economic strands while keeping it rooted in real concrete life experiences.”