Course Social and political history of argentinean tango


Academic director: Dr. Gustavo Varela.
Academic coordinator: Lic. Celina Cappello.

A political genealogy of tango means understanding its history, not as a mere aesthetic or musical expression of Buenos Aires, but as the discursive emergence of the political, economic and cultural conditions that gave rise to it and that explain its transformations. The relationship with social phenomena and historical conditions opens an understanding of the issues and discontinuities that tango has had throughout its centennial history.

We understand this history of tango divided into three periods: the brothel-tango (from its origin until 1910), the written-song tango (1910-1955) and the contemporary or avant-garde tango (from 1955 onwards). Each period has identity marks that defines it, on the one hand by the musical complexity and on the other, by the content of their lyrics. In between these periods there are breaks in its meaning, a thematic and musical discontinuity that the traditional history of tango reads in evolutionary terms, and it also reads new creations as individual miracles.

The proposal of this seminar is to analyze the culture of tango from a genealogical perspective starting by its historical periods: analyze the origin of the brothel-tango in orden to understand it as the effect of a way of living sexuality in society of Buenos Aires at the end of the XIX century. Thus, tango gave account of the same subjects that the hygienist policy wrote in its speeches and regulations, not as a prohibition or control but as an expression of an intense sexuality that was encouraged in titles, letters and brothel quartets.

Also understand the passage of this brothel-tango, coarse and shameless, to the written-song tango that, contrary to what it manifested in its origins, defines and reproduces values of control and social discipline. From there, we can define what does the breakthrough of the avant-garde tango means and what the conditions of this musical and discursive rupture are. This means understanding the arrival in 1955 of Astor Piazzolla and the avant-garde tango, not as a musical miracle but as an emerging type of tango from new historical conditions that arose with the ending of Peronism and that account for a strong value transformation. The disappearance of the great orchestras, the retraction of poets and authors, the end of the Buenos Aires musical comedy, the foreignization of the record companies and the burning of original tango matrices or the closing of the cabarets, are some of the symptoms that tango lived since the mid-fifties and that lead us to think, once again, of its disappearance. In this sense, underneath the question about Piazzolla’s music being tango or not, another discussion is hidden, linked to the modification of political conditions and, with it, of cultural production, which imply a new modality for tango.

This research still remains virgin in intellectual circles and the writing of books, articles or research related to the subject is, with some exceptions, in the hands of collectors or fans of tango without the critical nature of the academic spirit. The purpose of this seminar is for its students to get to know the history of tango (its music and its ways of representation), as a popular expression abundant in ideas, affections and ways of feeling, based on a genealogical tracking of its origin and its transformations, which continually refer to the political and social history of Argentina and allow to open a reading in which the tango is linked to a way of building national identity.


The program is designed by two axes, tango history and political genealogy of tango, which will be developed in each of the classes. The objective is for the students to receive an integral formation on the culture of tango that, starting from the historical conditions that originated it and that explain its transformations, allows to understand its musical development and the way its representations are built. Each class will also have what we have decided to call Bonus Track, where we share some curious contents or little known elements of the history of tango.

a) Political Genealogy of Tango: It is the main axis of the course, and its objective is making space to critical reflection for the understanding of citizen music and its changes, in the light of Argentinean political history. From its beginnings in 1880, where it appeared as an heterodox expression to the dominant culture, until the arrival of Astor Piazzolla (and contemporary tango as one of its effects), as a cultural symptom of the ending of the Peronist government, tango reveals itself as a discursive form and representation which is effect of the political, social and cultural conditions that gave rise to them.

b) History of tango: It is subdivided into two areas, musical history of tango and visual history of tango, its contents are arranged chronologically. The first one gives account of different styles in tango through a selection of musical themes that are considered constitutive of each period. Regarding the visual history, fragments of Argentine cinema films will be used that not only allow to recognize the protagonists of the history of tango but also to give account of different themes related to their mode of representation. In both cases, we will accompany the musical themes and images with an explanatory text.


Class 1. The political origen of tango

  • The debate about its origen. Sexuality y moral order in Buenos Aires at the end of the 19th century. The prostibularean origen of tango. The place of femenin and masculin: “la mina” and the man, “el compadrito” and the whore. Brothel cuartets y rude tangos. The social prohibition of tango in the conformation of the National State.
  • Musical history: Musical background and the first tangos
  • Visual history: Un baile del mundo: de Rodolfo Valentino (1904) a Al Pacino.

Bonus Track: Los tangos prostibularios y grabaciones de Angel Villoldo de 1907.

Class 2. Tango and inmigration

  • Public policy for inmigration: from necessity to rejection.
    ¿Innocent or guilty? of Antonio Argerich. Immigrants on stage: the sainete. Tango as a foreign expression. The hygienisation of the dance: from erotic dance to plain dance, from improvisation to technique. Tango among men: the inverted of José González Castillo.
  • Musical history: “La guardia Vieja” and the formation of the first orchestras.
  • Visual history: Gardel. Tango in Paris and in Broadway (1931-34). Stylization of lyrics and elimination of lunfardismos.

Bonus Track: Anarchist tango.

Class 3. Tango and moral

  • The hygienist discourse. Simulation as a model of political organization. Simulation as the main reason of the written-song tango. Tango in Manuel Gálvez’s literature: Gabriel Quiroga and Nacha Regules’ journal. Moralization: tango against itself. New moral order: the sad prostitute and the woman without sex.
  • Musical history: Aníbal Troilo’s orchestra.
  • Visual History: Romero’s autoplagiarism: Buenos Aires’ lights (1931): Gardel (Take and oblige) and Pedro Quartucchi; Life is a tango (1937): Hugo del Carril (The Last Cup) and Florencio Parravicini.

Bonus Track: Women in tango

Class 4. Tango and society

  • The conformation of the modern bourgeois family. Economic mobility and politics: the middle class as a cultural emergence. Women’s place in popular expression: the mother, the girlfriend and the mistress. Tango lyrics as a moral axiology: gaming, alcohol, revenge, friendship, work.
  • Musical history: Voices of tango.
  • Visual history: Singers of tango. Diversity of styles: Libertad Lamarque, Mercedes Simone, Azucena Maizani y Tita Merello.

Bonus Track: Duet tangos.

Class 5. Tango: space and time

  • Space: housing policies for popular sectors. New houses: from the exhibition of the “conventillo” to the privacy of the bedroom. Cartography of tango: the neighborhood, the corner, the cafe, the center. Time: metaphysics of a lost world. Chronography of tango: nostalgia, resentment and oblivion, rejection of change and time ideal, guilt and debt.
  • Musical history: Big orchestras I.
  • Visual history: Tango places of partying and brawl: the “conventillo”, the cabaret, and the “piringundín”.

Bonus Track: Tango and other musical genres.

Class 6. Tango as a dance

  • First steps. The rejection of high sectors. The history of dance through argentinean cinema. Dancing as a social problem. Analysis of the first dance method of Nicanor Lima of 1916.
  • Musical history: Osvaldo Pugliese in first person.

Bonus Track: Romanza tango.

Class 7. Tha last tango: Astor Piazzolla

  • The Argentinean cultural policy since 1955. Prohibition, opening and vanguard. Astor Piazzolla and tango as music. Writing against tango. Tango and intellectuals: Borges, Marechal, González Tuñón.
  • Musical history: Astor Piazzolla and contemporary tango.
  • Visual history: The archetypal characters of tango: the “calavera”, the “burrero”, the con man, the “amurado”, the dancer.

Bonus Track: Tangos of the 21st century.

Class 8. Tango dancing in today’s society

  • Tradicional tango or new tango. The revival of dance in the 90s. Rupture spirit vs. conservative spirit. Academic bias vs. Intuition. The role of women. The relationship with music. The continuity of codes. The Paschal Contursi codes and “Mi noche triste”. Building the myth: Carlos Gardel.
  • Musical history: Selected tangos to keep on dancing.
  • Visual history: The begginings of sound movies in argentina. “Tango!” of Moglia Barth (1933). “El contrapunto”, Romero-Sofficci. The tango melodrama of Ferreyra (Besos Brujos)

Bonus Track: Today’s tangos.

Course structure

Online course

Duration: from the 7th of february to the 30th of march of 2019.

This posgraduate course is organized in FLACSO’s virtual campus.
The postgraduate course is organized on the basis of a virtual campus, in which you will sign in with a personal password that will be given at the beginning of the activities.

Classes will be published one a week, every monday.

Evaluation: This course requires the approval of a final assignment.



It is required to present a degree given by any university, or justify the aspiration based on a professional or academic trajectory. In all cases, the academic committee of FLACSO will be responsible for deciding on the admission of applicants.

Steps to apply

Those who are interested should complete the pre-application online form and send an updated curriculum vitae via email to:

To complete the pre-application online form CLICK HERE.

FLACSO will make a selection of the applicants and will communicate to those who were accepted in order to complete their registration. In case the application is accepted, to complete the registration you must:

Present a copy of the university degree or background in the subject, and identity document.
Pay for the registration fee of the course.

Contact Us

Ramiro Michetti.
Phone: +54 11 5238-9392.
Location: Tucumán 1966 (C1050AAN).
Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Argentina.
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