Salsa Dancing is Sexist and Racist

Or so claims this academic thesis, via the imimitable Real Peerreview

In a discursive context where Europe is associated with modernity and ‘progress’, salsa dancing is often claimed to offer ‘difference’ in terms of the gender roles it propagates. The multi-million salsa industry sells the dance practice as ‘sexy’, ‘hot’ and as the epitome of heterosexuality. This thesis explores gender and sexuality discourses among salsa dancers in Switzerland and England. Drawing on unstructured in-depth interviews with heterosexual and lesbian/gay salsa dancers, it traces culturalist understandings of salsa genders that defer heteronormativity and ‘strict’ gender roles to ‘Latin American culture’. Based on queer-feminist, postcolonial and race critical theory, this thesis offers an analysis of how gendered and sexualised formations come into being on the salsa scene. It will do so by deconstructing Latin American gender stereotypes, narratives of passion and heterosexual romance as well as heteronormalising processes that inform the salsa dance studio. Overall, it will argue that claims to gender and sexuality on the salsa scene are racialised in the way that they reflect broader discourses of race in contemporary Europe. This thesis presents the first analysis of salsa dance practices in Europe that is led by postcolonial and queer-feminist theory. Beyond an analysis of salsa from this perspective, it aims to contribute to the study of postcolonial racisms in Switzerland and England. Additionally, it makes a case for the study of Latinidad in Europe and the gendered and sexualised stereotypes associated with it.

Sometimes I worry that I’m perpetuating white supremacy and The Patriarchy by highlighting this sort of thing. But I do believe there’s a dangeous totalitarian ideology behind it that does need to be called out and ridiculed. As has been said before, our future politicians, bureaucrats and chief police officers are currently studying in establishments that teach this stuff.

What comes over in the above abstract is the sheer joylessness of the mindset behind it. Take a popular cultural activity that brings pleasure to many and declare it harmful because reasons. The one thing it most strongly recalls is the 1980s “Satanic Panic” when everything from metal music to Dungeons and Dragons was declared “Satanic” and claimed to be a gateway to demonic possession.

That nonsense faded away with the decline of the Religious Right, but the same sort of censorious and joyless puritanism has reappeared in left-wing academia. One can only hope it fades away in the same way.

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6 Responses to Salsa Dancing is Sexist and Racist

  1. Synthetase says:

    “This thesis presents the first analysis of salsa dance practices in Europe that is led by postcolonial and queer-feminist theory.”

    In the sciences, we call that foundational bias.

  2. Michael says:

    I’d be interested to learn if the same people have any views on the Ceroc dance style.

    Mind you, the chain changed ownership just as I drifted away from that style of evening out in 2003. Things could be very different by now.

  3. Tim Hall says:

    Probably the same with any kind of dancing. It’s really the old “Dancing leads to sinful thoughts” argument used by ultra-conservative religious sects.

  4. John P. says:

    What worries me is that it implies that there have been other analyses of salsa dancing and so that suggests that there are other academics with more time/money on their hands than is good for them.

    My wife commented that she has seen scientific papers with equally obscure descriptions so it appears this isn’t limited to the humanities. Maybe somebody needs to do an academic paper on descriptions of academic papers and the whole thing can collapse into its own reality vortex ….

  5. Michael says:

    John,
    I commend improbable.com as a collection of research papers which your wife may have been reading.
    The best of which are awarded the anual Ignoble Prizes.

  6. John P. says:

    Thanks for the suggestion, Michael, but she was involved in biology research at one time and had to trawl through a lot of these sort of things anyway. These things make even Micros**t marketing material sound sensible.