Research Project: Migration, transformation, and the homecoming of a culture: Tango in Finland and Japan as an example

Project leader
Project Members
Mariya Aida Niendorf
Project Period
Project Status
In Finland, a great distance away from Buenos Aires, people crowd dance floors nightly to dance to tango music, while the tango has also captured the hearts of the people on the other side of the world in Japan. The popularity of the tango in both Finland and Japan, however, is not so familiar to the outside world.

In this project, I will discuss the motives and the paths by which a culture travels, settles and shapes itself into a new form, using the tango as an example. First, the tango’s relationship to society and history in each of these countries are explored using archives and literature. Then such aspects as inner emotion, solitude, illusion, and liminality are analyzed through data collected from surveys, interviews, and forum discussions in the SNS.

Some scholars suggest that the tango reflects the personality, mentality, and identity of the Finnish and Japanese peoples. Though this may be partially true, it is difficult to generalize about the Finnish or Japanese personality. It is argued, rather, that the tango's prosperity in these two countries has significant connections to some shared historical and social factors. I also propose that the 'liminality' of tango dancing plays an important role in both nations that went through difficult struggles to recover from the damage caused by war. “The liminal phase is considered sacred, anomalous, abnormal and dangerous, while the pre- and post-liminal phases are normal and a profane state of being” (Selänniemi 1996). Tango dancing can be considered an escape or a vacation from the hardship of everyday life as well as a fuel which enables the people to keep moving forward.
The tango’s transformation in Finland and Japan, and its homecoming back to Argentina are also examined.
Research Profile
Intercultural Studies