Academic Howler of the Week: How to Ruin Salsa

It’s Monday, so it’s time for our Academic Absurdity of the Week, drawn as always from the service of Real Peer Review on Twitter. A few days ago Donald Trump got into his usual mischief over a taco bowl. He’s underachieving. He’s totally missing out on the trolling possibilities of  . . . salsa dancing! Because—wait for it now—salsa dancing is . . . racist, sexist, and imperialistic. Also “heteronormative.”

Here’s the abstract of a Ph.D dissertation accepted by the University of Leeds just last week:

Dancing salsa in post-thinking Europe: Gender and sexuality discourses among salsa dancers in Switzerland and England

Stefanie Claudine Boulila


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.

Now, don’t bother getting out your checkbook to get a complete copy of this masterpiece. There’s a note attached at the top: “Restricted until 1 May 2036. ” I can’t imagine why.

Follow up question: Why is the Left so obsessed with sex?