Phi Beta Cons

“Tango!”: The Academic Conference

Tango: It’s exciting, it’s fast, its accompanying music is usually catchy. And, of course, it’s “a global metaphor with deeply embedded connections to urban poverty, social marginalization, and masculine authority.”

May I present, ladies and gentlemen, the latest installment of absurd academic conferences; announcement herewith:


Dance the World Around:

Global Transformations of Latin American Culture

October 26-27, 2007

Agassiz Theatre, Radcliffe Yard

10 Garden Street

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tango! engages with the history and aesthetics of a vital dance form in order to explore traditions of culture and politics in Latin America and across the world. Through performance and conversation, this conference will consider tango as a global metaphor with deeply embedded connections to urban poverty, social marginalization, and masculine authority.

Admission is free, and registration is required.

For a complete schedule and to register, please visit or call 617-495-8600.


Yo-Yo Ma, cellist

Pablo Aslan, bassist and composer

Osvaldo Golijov, composer


Homi Bhabha, Harvard University

Alicia Borinsky, Boston University

Juan E. Corradi, New York University

Deborah Foster, Harvard University

Florencia Garramuño, Universidad de San Andrés

Merilee Grindle, Harvard University

Barbara J. Grosz, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study

Matthew B. Karush, George Mason University

Sylvia Molloy, New York University

Federico Miguel Monjeau, Universidad de Buenos Aires

Marta Elena Savigliano, University of California at Los Angeles

Mariano Siskind, Harvard University

Diana Sorensen, Harvard University

Julie Taylor, Rice University

Tango! is cosponsored by the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, the Humanities Center at Harvard, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, with the generous support of the Consulate General and Promotion Center of Argentina in New York.

What’s really amusing about this confab is that it’s not some small, trifling affair, as one might imagine an academic conference on tango being.
Yo-Yo Ma, Osvaldo Golijov: These are big names. And, indeed, they’re quite appropriate for a conference about tango, as anyone who has witnessed Pontius Pilate grooving in Golijov’s St Mark’s Passion can attest.
Sadly, you get the sweet with the sour, beginning with Homi Bhabha, the “postcolonial critical theorist” as famous for his notoriously opaque prose as the ideas he churns out with the same. Prof Bhabha apparently won Philosophy and Literature’s Bad Writing Competition some years ago with this sentence, from his book The Location of Culture:

If, for a while, the ruse of desire is calculable for the uses of discipline soon the repetition of guilt, justification, pseudo-scientific theories, superstition, spurious authorities, and classifications can be seen as the desperate effort to “normalize” formally the disturbance of a discourse of splitting that violates the rational, enlightened claims of its enunciatory modality.

Truly remarkable.
But I wander… I suppose the bottom line would be: Come for the tango; leave before the profs start blathering.

Travis Kavulla is director of Energy and Environmental Policy at the R Street Institute. He is a former president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners who held elected office as a Montana public service commissioner for eight years. Before that, he was an associate editor for National Review.


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