DANCING TANGO - passionate encounters in a globalizing world

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Argentinean tango is a global phenomenon. Since its origin among immigrants from the slums of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, it has crossed and re-crossed many borders.Yet, never before has tango been danced by so many people and in so many different places as today. Argentinean tango is more than a specific music and style of dancing. It is also a cultural imaginary which embodies intense passion, hyper-heterosexuality, and dangerous exoticism. In the wake of its latest revival, tango has become both a cultural symbol of Argentinean national identity and a transnational cultural space in which a modest, yet growing number of dancers from different parts of the globe meet on the dance floor.

Tango is about encounters with difference - differences between women and men, generational differences, differences in sexual orientation, differences in class and ethnicity, differences between North and South. It offers a prism for exploring the ways that socially constructed and politically salient differences are mobilized, negotiated, and transformed in ways that are predictable and surprising, fascinating and disturbing. Tango provides an opportunity to make sense of what living in a globalizing world is all about.

Davis also explores her uneasiness about her own passion for a dance which - when seen through the lens of contemporary critical feminist and postcolonial theories - seems, at best, odd, and, at worst, disreputable and even a bit shameful. She uses the disjuncture between the incorrect pleasures and complicated politics of dancing tango as a resource for exploring the workings of passion as experience, as performance, and as cultural discourse. She concludes that dancing tango should be viewed less as a love/hate embrace with colonial overtones than a passionate encounter across many different borders between dancers who share a desire for difference and a taste of the "elsewhere." Dancing Tango is a vivid, intriguing account of an important global cultural phenomenon.


"Kathy Davis is an expert and engaging feminist tour guide to the passionate and paradoxical global practice of contemporary Argentine tango. Through its astute ethnographic comparison of tango cultures in Buenos Aires and Amsterdam, Dancing Tango offers a laudable contribution to literature on tango, gender, and contemporary global cultural developments."

-Judith Stacey, tango dancer and author of Unhitched

"Providing us with a sensual, groundbreaking and highly accessible account of how the global phenomenon of Argentinean tango is implicated in a desire for a liminal experience of embodied connectivity in music, Kathy Davis places her global ethnography in a context that explores the intersections between the politics of passion, performance, gender, and transnational connections, power-relations and imaginaries. This compelling study will be an invaluable resource for scholars and students interested in feminist sociology, ethnography, sexuality, embodiment and globalization."

-Chris Shilling, author of The Body and Social Theory

See also: a Q&A with Kathy Davis at the NYU Press blog and a Facebook page.