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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: July 2015

4 - Interregnum, 1989–2001



In the same essay in which he pinpointed an onset date for postmodernism (see Chapter 2), Raymond Federman also identified its endpoint. Postmodernism “changed tense” from past to present, he wrote, on the same date that Samuel Beckett did: December 22, 1989, the day Beckett died (Federman, 1993, 105; see Chapter 1). That date, like the onset date of October 1, 1966, while proposed in a spirit of play, nevertheless has multiple cultural resonances. With the breaching of the Berlin Wall the month before, marking the symbolic if not quite the actual end of the Cold War, global postmodern culture seemed, maybe not to “change tense” exactly, but at least to undergo a decisive reorientation. But a reorientation toward what?

Cumulatively, the geopolitical events of the period 1989–93, comprising not only the fall of Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union and its empire, but also the bloody suppression of the democracy movement at Beijing's Tiananmen Square, the release of Nelson Mandela, and the beginning of the end of apartheid, certainly seemed to herald the end of something and the onset of something else. The U.S. administration of George Bush the elder thought it heralded a New World Order in which America, as the sole remaining superpower, would inevitably take the global lead, as it did in the First Gulf War (“Operation Desert Storm”) in 1991. However, American triumphalism did not last long, and as the decade advanced it proved more difficult to create an international consensus to address geopolitical crises such as the Yugoslav civil war of 1991–95 (Chollet and Goldgeier, 2008).

Christian Moraru (2011) sees the 1989–93 threshold differently. He thinks that the breakdown of the Cold War deadlock between the superpowers made possible a new kind of cosmopolitanism in the cultural sphere, which he proposes to call cosmodernism.

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