Mar. 5: Bodies, Embodiment, and the Experience of Passion: What Tango Dancers Can Teach Us

Thursday, March 5, 2015

6-8 PM

Knox Hall, 606 W 122nd St., Room 403

Watch the video of this workshop!

Biographical researchers depend upon communication with their informants, usually in the form of a chronological story about their lives. However, not all experience can be put so easily into words, let alone into a linear narrative with a beginning and an end. Drawing upon my research with people who are passionate about dancing Argentine tango, I will explore how they make sense of this passion – a passion which is highly embodied, attached to strongly-felt emotions, and often implicated in unexpected and sometimes dramatic biographical transformations. Passion is not only difficult to capture in words, but it can be difficult to reconcile with people’s sense of who they are or how their lives should be. I will argue that tango dancers have much to teach us about people’s life experiences and biographical trajectories, but also about some of the shortcomings of the discursive approaches we use to investigate them. But most importantly, I hope to show that by ignoring passion as an embodied experience we fail to do justice to what makes life worth living.

Kathy Davis is senior researcher at the Institute of History and Culture at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Kathy Davis has a long-standing interest in feminist scholarship on women’s bodies and health. Her work is situated at the cutting edge between cultural studies, gender studies, and the sociology of the body. She has published extensively on contemporary feminist approaches to the body, cultural constructions of beauty and beauty practices, interaction between physicians and patients, the political and ethical dimensions of surgical technologies, and transnational feminist health activism. She is the author of many books, including Reshaping the Female Body (Routledge, 1995), Dubious Equalities and Embodied Differences (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), Embodied Practices: Feminist Perspectives on the Body (Sage, 1997), The Making of Our Bodies, Ourselves: How Feminism Travels Across Borders (Duke, 2007), and Dancing Tango: Passionate Encounters in a Globalizing World which has just been published by NYUPress.

SPONSORS: This talk is part of the “Paul F. Lazarsfeld Lecture Series,” co-sponsored by the Columbia Center for Oral History Research (CCOHR) and the Oral History Master of Arts Program (OHMA). Support from the Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics (INCITE) is provided for programming that embodies late Professor Paul Lazarsfeld’s commitment to improving methodological approaches that address concerns of vital cultural and social significance.

INFORMATION: For more information, please email Amy Starecheski at aas39(at)