The shopping mall was not just a monument to consumption, as it is often framed, but also a place where American suburbanites could find community. The American shopping mall was pioneered in the 1950s, partially as a way to fix the social gaps that are present in a suburban environment and rose to its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s. During this time, the mall became a place for suburban residents to socialize, as illustrated by the phenomena of “mall rats” and mall walkers. Despite this social significance, the mall was typically only seen as a place to fulfill consumer needs rather than social needs. I will survey the literature surrounding the social legacy of malls in an effort to reframe the legacy of the institution, in light of the benefits provided by hindsight. Shopping malls should be recognized for their ability to facilitate social connections and community during the late 20th century in a space as atomized as the suburbs.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Copyright (c) 2022 Eliza K. Peterson, Andrew Urban