Book Review: Tango and the Political Economy of Passion

Reprinted from

"Because I have no answers to my questions, I tango. I tango because I have to move in the midst of these uncertainties. . . . My first steps in tango taught me about both overwhelming domination and stubborn resistance."

The main criticism with the author's style is that she does seem to enjoy her prose a little too much. However, there are few treatments of Tango that are this comprensive (in English, anyway.) She does warn the reader early on that her style may be challenging:

"For this reason I speak in bursts, splashes, and puddles, opening windows to what I have expected to be major controversial knots engendered by the justaposition of tango and decolonization."

She's not kidding - that's a very accurate description of her style. There were many moments of, "wait, weren't we just discussing something else a paragraph ago?" It leaves the reader wondering if he or she is the intended audience, of if the author is truly writing to herself and we are simply eavesdropping on the conversation.

Is it still worth reading? Absolutely. Every page. Set aside some time for it though - this is not a fast or easy read. Ms. Savigliano explores politics, class, racism, and revolution - by following the tango from Buenos Aires to Tokyo (and back). And by looking at Passion as emotional capital 'accumulated, recoded and consumed.'

"So, pick and choose. Improvise. Hide away. Run after them. Stay still. Move at an astonishing speed. Shut up. Scream a rumor. Turn around. Go back without returning. Upside down. Let your feet do the thinking. Be comfortable in your restlessness. Tango."

If you'd like to read a preview of this book, you can find a substantial portion of the book on

"The history of the tango is a story of encounters between those who should never have met or between those who, having met, will remain forever disencountered." While her style is certainly compelling, even lyrical, it does at times weigh down what she might actually be trying to communicate. So be prepared to re-read passages and research references that she doesn't explain in favor of wrapping those references in beautiful, if disorienting, prose.

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