clifford geertz: “deep play: notes on the balinese cockfight” summary and review to start form the bottom line, clifford geertz’s essential notion expressed in. “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight” is one of Clifford Geertz’s most influential articles which illustrates not only the meaning of a given. Perhaps one of the most widely read anthropological essays, “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight” by Clifford Geertz is available.

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Bateson and Mead, Balinese Character, pp. The cockfight is a metaphor and a stand-in for the struggles going on in everyday social life.

There are primary bets between competitors and side bets between spectators. Notes on the Balinese Notee. The interpretatio naturae tradition of the middle ages, which, culminating in Spinoza, attempted to read nature as Scripture, the Nietzschean effort to treat value systems as glosses on the will to power or the Marxian one to treat them as glosses on property relationsand the Freudian replacement of the enigmatic text of the manifest dream with the plain one of the latent, all offer precedents, if not equally recommendable ones.

You seldom get two outsider cocks fighting, or two cocks with no particular group backing, or with group backing which is mutually unrelated in any clear way. That what the cockfight has to say about Bali is not altogether without perception and the disquiet it expresses about the general pattern of Balinese life is not wholly without reason is attested by the fact that in two geettz of Decemberduring the upheavals following the unsuccessful coup in Djakarta, between forty and eighty thousand Balinese in a population of about two million ckckfight killed, largely by one another–the worst outburst in the country.

However the fight, according to Geertz, is not between individuals but is rather a simulation of the social structure of kinship and social groups. Korn, “The Consecration of the Priest,” in Swellengrebel, ed. And they are handled, both in use and out, with the same curious combination of fussiness and sensuality the Balinese direct toward ritual objects generally.

The cockfigjt tries to shout the giver into longer odds, the giver to shout the taker into shorter balniese.

But, as I have argued lengthily elsewhere, the Balinese live in spurts. The elite, which is not itself so very puritan, worries about the poor, ignorant peasant gambling all his money away, about what foreigners will think, about the waste of time better devoted to building up the country.


For Cockfigbt and those who think as he does nowadays mainly lawyers, economists, and a few psychiatriststhe explanation is, as I have said, that such men are irrational–addicts, fetishists, children, fools, savages, who need only to be protected against themselves.

Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight

This apparent amusement and seeming sport is, to take another phrase from Erving Goffman, “a status bloodbath. The types are coordinated with various cosmological ideas which help shape blinese making of matches, so that, for example, you fight a small, headstrong, speckled brown-on-white cock with flat-lying feathers and thin legs from the east side geettz the ring on a certain day of the complex Balinese calendar, and a large, cautious, all-black cock with tufted feathers and stubby legs from the north side on another day, and so on.

What it does is what, cockfibht other peoples with other temperaments and other conventions, Lear cockifght Crime and Punishment do; it catches up these themes–death, masculinity, rage, pride, loss, beneficence, chance–and, ordering them into an encompassing structure, presents them in such a way as to throw into relief a particular view of their essential nature.

Fighting always takes place between people and cocks from opposing social groups family, clan, village etc. The disquietfulness arises, “somehow,” out of a conjunction of three attributes of the fight: Except for unimportant, small-bet fights on the question of fight “importance,” see below spur affixing is usually done balindse someone other than the owner. It paints Balinese society as what it most does not want to be. Its function, if you want to call it that, is interpretive: The best discussion of cockfighting is again Bateson and Mead Balinese Character, pp.

As the three of us came tumbling into the courtyard, his wife, who had apparently been through this sort of thing before, cocifight out a table, a tablecloth, three chairs, and three cups of tea, and we all, without any explicit communication whatsoever, sat down, commenced to sip tea, and sought to compose ourselves. But it is only an apparent one, for, rather than taking myths, totem rites, marriage rules, or whatever as texts to interpret.

If the wounded one can get a stab motes and stagger on until the other drops, he is the official winner, even if he himself topples over an instant later.

Is he too proud for the likes of us? The two betting systems, though formally incongruent, are not really contradictory to one another, but part of a single larger system in which the center bet is, so to speak, cockfihgt “center of gravity,” drawing, the larger it is the more so, the outside bets toward the short-odds end of the scale.


Savage Minds

But here they portray themselves as wild and murderous, with manic explosions of instinctual cruelty. We had a perfect right to be balineze, he said, looking the Javanese upstart in the eye. Only women, children, adolescents, and various other sorts of people who do not or not yet fight cocks–the extremely poor, the socially despised, the personally idiosyncratic–play at these games, at, of course, penny ante levels. The cockfight is “really real” only to the cocks–it does not kill anyone, castrate anyone, reduce anyone to animal status, alter the hierarchical relations among people, or refashion the hierarchy; it does not even redistribute income in any significant way.

Cultural Reader: Clifford Geertz: “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight” – summary and review

It transfers the selves of the men involved into their cocks, lending a sense of gravity to the fights, which Geertz sees as expressive of something unsettling in the way the Balinese live, or who they are. Nor is it the only way that symbolic forms can be sociologically handled. Amid great screeching cries of “pulisi!

This principle is extended logically. This does not mean that the financial element is all-important. Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy New Haven,p.

Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight – Wikipedia

A marriageable young man still shy with the opposite sex or someone in a new job anxious to make a good impression is called “a fighting cock caged for the first time. Men go on allegorically humiliating one another and being allegorically humiliated by one another, day after day, glorying quietly in the experience if they have triumphed, crushed only slightly more openly by it if they have not.

A match made, the other hopefuls retire with the same deliberate indifference, and the selected cocks have their spurs tadji affixed–razor sharp, pointed nites swords, four or cockfihht inches long. There is the matchmaking, there is the betting, there is the covkfight, there is the result–utter triumph and utter defeat–and there is the hurried, embarrassed passing of money.