Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight. Clifford Geertz. The Raid. Early in April of , my wife and I arrived, malarial and diffident, in a Balinese village. “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. 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.

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That what the cockfight has to say about Bali is not altogether without perception and the disquiet it expresses about the general bqlinese of Balinese life is not wholly without reason is attested by the fact that in two weeks of Decemberduring the upheavals following the unsuccessful coup in Djakarta, between forty and eighty thousand Balinese in a population of about two million were killed, largely by one another–the worst outburst in the country.

They are fed a special diet, which varies somewhat according to individual theories but which is mostly maize, sifted for impurities with far more care than it is when mere humans are going to eat it and offered to the animal kernel by kernel.

The madness has some less visible dimensions, however, because although it is plsy that cocks are symbolic expressions or magnifications of their owner’s self, the narcissistic male ego writ out in Aesopian cockkfight, they are also expressions–and rather more immediate ones–of what the Balinese regard as the direct inversion, aesthetically, morally, and metaphysically, balineae human status: Functionalism lives, and so does psychologism.

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

Assuming only binomial variability, the departure from a fifty-fifty expectation in the sixty-ringgits-and-below case is 1. There is cockfigjt special word for betting against the grain, which is also the word for “pardon me” mpura. Balinese men, or anyway a large majority of Balinese men, spend an enormous amount of time with their favorites, grooming them, feeding them, discussing them, trying them out against one another, or just gazing at them with a mixture of rapt admiration and dreamy self-absorption.

Actually, it is men. The notess important wins and losses are seen mostly in other terms, and the general attitude toward wagering is not any hope of cleaning up, of making a killing addict gamblers again exceptedbut that of the horseplayer’s prayer: The disquietfulness arises, “somehow,” out of a conjunction of three attributes of the fight: Drawing on almost every level of Balinese experience, it brings together themes–animal savagery, male narcissism, opponent gambling, status rivalry, mass excitement, blood sacrifice–whose main connection is their involvement with rage and the fear of rage, and, binding them into a set of rules which at once contains them and allows them play, builds a symbolic structure in which, over and over again, the reality of their inner affiliation can be intelligibly felt.

If the giver, the wooed, replies in kind, the bet is made; if he does not, they unlock gazes and the search goes on.

I think that the word statues must be replaced with status in the 4th paragraph. For a discussion of it, and for the whole argument for freeing “the notion of text. In the case at hand, to treat the cockfight as a text is to bring out a feature of it in my opinion, the central feature of it that treating it as a rite or a pastime, the two most obvious alternatives, would tend to obscure: The last half of the essay describes the rituals of betting and concludes that the cockfight is the Balinese comment on themselves, as it embodies the network of social relationships in kin and village that govern traditional Balinese life.


It balineee in large part because the marginal disutility of loss is so great at the higher levels of betting that to engage in such betting is to lay one’s public self, allusively and metaphorically, through the medium of one’s cock, on the line. Slightly above these people in standing are those who, though they do not themselves fight cocks, bet on the smaller matches vockfight the edges. It channels aggression and rivalry into an indirect symbolic sphere of engagement.

Savage Minds

Frye, The Educated Imagination Bloomington. The cock changes into a Garuda, the great mythic bird of Indic legend, and carries the hero and his wife to safety in the heavens. The old man asks for food, and the hero spends his last coins to buy him some. To ask of any cultural text, be it a cockfight or a folktale, who is talking, who is being talked to, what is being talked about, and what form of action is being called for, is to move cultural analysis to a new level that renders the old antinomies of materialism and idealism irrelevant.

The cocks may be surrogates for their owners’ personalities, animal mirrors of psychic form, but the cockfight is–or more exactly, deliberately is made to be–a simulation of the social matrix, the involved system of crosscutting, overlapping, highly corporate groups–villages, kingroups, irrigation societies, temple congregations, “castes”–in which teh devotees reep. Such an extension of the notion of a text beyond written material, and even beyond verbal, is, though metaphorical, not, of course, all that novel.

The phrase is found in the Hildreth translation, International Library of Psychologynote to p. Deep Play is a study of the Balinese tradition of cockfighting, based on a year of anthropological research conducted by Geertz at the end of the s, when he and his wife lived in Bali, attending the illegal but very popular cockfights and interviewing people involved in them.

Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight

Yet what it says is not merely that risk is exciting, loss depressing, or triumph gratifying, banal tautologies of affect, but that it is of these emotions, thus exampled, that society is built and individuals put together.

A man backing the cockfgiht, and thus considering giving odds if he can get them short enough, indicates the fact by crying out the color-type of that cock–“brown,” “speckled,” or whatever.

In the dozens of cockfights I saw in Bali, I never once saw an altercation about rules. It bbalinese the turning point so far as our relationship to the community was concerned, and we were quite literally “in. There were also “battle Royales,” both in England and on the Continent, in which a large number of cocks were let loose at once with the one left standing at the end the victor. On the established anthropological principle, When in Rome, my wife and I cockfigt, only slightly less instantaneously than everyone else, that the thing to do was run too.

The language of everyday moralism is shot through, on the male side of it, with roosterish imagery. For Geertz, culture is mainly psychological and personal.

Whenever you see a group of Balinese men squatting cockfigjt in the council shed or along the road in their hips down, shoulders forward, fhe up fashion, half or more of cocjfight will have a rooster in his hands, holding it between his thighs, bouncing it gently up and down to strengthen its legs, ruffling its feathers with abstract sensuality, pushing it out against a neighbor’s rooster to rouse its spirit, withdrawing it toward his loins to calm it again Now and then, to get a feel for another bird, a man will fiddle this way with someone else’s cock for a while, but usually by moving around to squat in place behind it, rather than just having it passed across to him as though it were merely an animal.


Two fingers in a six-to-five situation means a man wants to wager ten ringgits on the underdog against twelve, three in an eight-to-seven situation, twenty-one against twenty-four, and so on. The essay describes how cocks are taken to stand in for powerful men in the villages, and notes that even the double-entendre sense of the word “cock” exists in the Balinese language as much as in English.

Quartets, still lifes, and cockfights are not merely reflections of a pre-existing sensibility analogically represented; they are positive agents in the creation and maintenance of such a sensibility.

His followers are, of course, obliged to support him, and when the more grand-scale legal cockfights are held on holidays and so on the people of the village take what they regard to be the best cocks in the village, regardless of ownership, and go off to support them, although they will almost certainly have to give odds on them and to make large bets to show that they are not a cheapskate village.

When two cocks are structurally irrelevant or neutral so far as you are concerned though, as mentioned, they almost never are to each other you do not even ask a relative or a friend whom he is betting on, cockfiht if you know how he is betting and he knows you know, and you go the other way, it will lead to strain.

However, they have a deep identification with their cocks yes, with their cocks and “in identifying with his cock, the Balinese man is identifying not only with his ideal self, or even his penis, but also, cockfgiht at the same time, balihese what he most fears, hates, and ambivalence being what it is, is fascinated by- the powers of darkness”.

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. Myth, symbol, and culture. Social Research 49 Bali, mainly because it is Bali, is a well-studied place.

The coconut is then sunk twice more and the fight must recommence. In some ways Geertz is one of the most well known anthropologists outside of the discipline, but my sense is that his influence within the discipline itself has waned. Early in April ofmy wife and I arrived, malarial and diffident, in a Balinese village we intended, as anthropologists, to study. But we constantly find things in literature that suddenly coordinate and bring into focus a great many such impressions, and this is part of what Aristotle means by the typical or universal human event.

If your kin group is not involved you will support an allied kingroup against an unallied one in the same way, and so on through the very involved networks of alliances which, as I say, make up this, as any other, Balinese village. Belo New York, originally published inpp. Bentham’s conclusion was, therefore, that deep play was immoral from first principles and, a typical step for him, should be prevented legally.

Articles needing additional references from June All articles needing additional references. Men of this sort, plungers, are highly dispraised by “true cockfighters” as fools who do not understand what the sport is all about, vulgarians who simply miss the point of it all. Notes on the Balinese Cockfight” is that a people’s culture is an ensemble of rituals which are in themselves ensembles, and these texts are what the anthropologist is trying to decipher.