Dara Blumenthal, PhD on Critical Theory, Public Toilet Spaces, and the Future of Work


My guest today is Dara Blumenthal (@thisisdara), a management consultant who did her PhD on the critical theory of public toilet spaces. If you’re like me, and totally confused but interested to learn what this means and how it came to be, stay tuned.

Dara reached out to me in the spring of 2015 because of the theme of the Stanford conference I was organizing, which was “Dance at Work.” If you don’t know, I’ve run Design for Dance at Stanford since 2014 as a place to bring together people thinking about behavior change and movement. Dara, with her backgrounds in a variety of performing arts, somatic training, a sociologist’s eye, saw an overlap between the theme of “Dance at Work” and her work at the company Undercurrent, which was a creative design and management consulting firm. I became enamored of Undercurrent, Dara’s research, and the question of how to do we apply skills from the creative professions elsewhere in business. (If these things sound interesting to you, too, we’re continuing to talk about them in this “Dance at Work” group.

This interview was the first time Dara and I had ever actually met in person. We explore Dara’s upbringing and how she was taught as a young girl to ask probing questions. We discuss how the combined study of somatics and the academic discipline of critical theory together led her to ask hundreds, if not thousands of people, to share their stories about public toilets. We examine how that led Dara to study of guilt, shame and humiliation, and how now Dara is part of a new organization which seeks to remove those, and increase collaboration and creativity, within large companies.

Dara as a part of the New Dance Collective, NYC 2015

Dara and I dive pretty deep into some academic theory, but there are gems in this episode about cross-culture communication, the future of work, and the stories people tell of public toilet spaces.

Listen to the interview here or on iTunes.

You might also enjoy Dara’s writing around the internet and her book.

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