American Culture in the 1990s

American Culture in the 1990s

American Culture in the 1990s

American Culture in the 1990s

Synopsis

American Culture in the 1990s focuses on the dramatic cultural transformations of the last decade of the millennium. Lodged between the fall of Communism and the outbreak of the War on Terror, the 1990s was witness to America's expanding influence across the world but also a period of anxiety and social conflict. National traumas such as the Los Angeles riots, the Oklahoma City bombing and the impeachment of President Clinton lend an apocalyptic air to the decade, but the book looks beyond this to a wider context to identify new voices emerging in the nation. This is one of the first attempts to bring together developments taking place across a range of different fields: from Microsoft to the Internet, from blank fiction to gangsta rap, from abject art to new independent cinema, and from postfeminism to posthumanism. Students of American culture and general readers will find this a lively and illuminating introduction to a complex and immensely varied decade. Key Features
• 3 case studies per chapter featuring key texts, genres, writers and artists
• Chronology of 1990s American Culture
• Bibliographies for each chapter
• 18 black and white illustrations

Excerpt

The attempt to identify the main characteristics of the 1990s was under way before much of the decade had even happened. By 1993, the press had come up with a multitude of era-defining labels: favourites were The Sober Nineties, The Gay Nineties, and The Practical Decade. For some it was ‘the espresso age’, the decade of leanness and thrift; for others it would be a time of liberation and abandon. ‘Welcome to the ‘90s and the era of commuter marriage,’ announced the Los Angeles Times, noting the rise of fragmented personal lives under the pressures of flexible capitalism. The Seattle Times observed a trend running in the opposite direction: ‘Welcome to the ’90s: aging boomers staying home, sipping chamomile and falling asleep.’ To some extent these labels offer an insight into Americans’ expectations of the decade to come, and we might want to say that the mood of austerity in many of them reflected a need to put the perceived excesses of the 1980s at a distance, while the sense of restlessness in others was a millennial impulse, recalling the fin de siècle spirit of the original ‘gay decade’ a century beforehand. But what is more significant is simply the frequency with which these premature attempts to classify the decade were appearing. It was as if Americans needed urgently to fix the meaning of the present before they could live in it.

The attempt to understand such labels begs a further question: what does it mean to think of history in terms of decades? As a unit of measurement the limitations are obvious: a decade misrepresents processes of change that do not sit within a ten-year span, and tends to homogenise the events of a period rather than place the accent on conflicts and discontinuities. But the idea of the decade has also become embedded in popular consciousness, influencing the way we think about culture as well as history. Social historian Jason Scott Smith has argued that it has its origins in the turmoil of the late nineteenth . . .

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