Obama’s Election and the End of Postmodernism

By Carolyn Hudson and Pamela Smiley.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

There are two themes associated with Barack Hussein Obama’s 2008 election: change and hope. Given the dismal global context of the election—the sub-prime mortgage debacle; the failure of industries, banks and corporations “too big to fail;” global warming; wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza and Darfur—hope and change were hardly predictable. Obama’s election signals a departure from the cynicism and entrenched policies of what we argue is the entropic deterioration of postmodernism in the Bush Presidency. This paper uses literary, art and integrated cultural critical theory to read current events through popular media, concluding that Obama’s election marks the end of post-modernism and the reconstruction of a new movement via Re-Mix. We begin by positing a working definition of Post-Modernism. We then read the moment of change through the Bush dialectic through theory where, for example, Post-Modernism’s disjunction of the Saussurian Signifier and Signified collapses into a phenomenon the “The New Yorker” identified as “post-modern money.” The Bakhtinian Simulacra slides into a post-fact era with a President who, in Brook Gladstone’s description of Bush, “disdains facts and makes decisions based on what he knows in his gut to be true.” The playfulness of Post-Modernism becomes what “Talk of The Town” calls “the pure cynicism of the Bush administration.” Obama introduces a new dialectic challenging the disconnect between Signifier/Signified in, for example, the false choices between such things as security and freedom to hybridization. Simulacra now moves from post-fact to the emphasis on action, and Play moves from cynicism to hope. As such, Re-Mix practices have profound implications for the Humanities. The Arts and Humanities have always given a glimpse of what is not yet but ‘could be’ if we have the courage to hope and to risk. Rarely are cultural and artistic movements pinpointed in time, but the Obama election clearly closes Postmodernism and Re-Mix opens the way for an eager global revisioning of what ‘could be.’

Keywords: Post-Modernism, Politics, Theory, Media

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp.35-46. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.218MB).

Carolyn Hudson

Assistant Professor, Art History, Heritage, and Women's Studies., Carthage College, Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA

As well as teaching art history at Carthage, Hudson teaches art history, Heritage Studies and Women's and Gender Studies. A British national with both art and English lit. background, she feels particularly committed to the inter-disciplinary learning experience, and frequently collaborates with faculty from other departments to teach interdisciplinary classes.

Prof. Pamela Smiley

Professor, English and Women's Studies, Carthage College, Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA

I began the women’s studies program fifteen years ago when I began teaching. Interested in global issues of hermeneutics and post-modern theory, I have also taught in Korea, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.

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