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. 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.

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Even in contexts where women do not in fact play much of a role–music, painting, certain agricultural activities–their absence, which is only relative in any case, is more a mere matter of fact than socially enforced.

It is little wonder that when, as is the invariable rule, the owner of the winning cock takes the carcass of the loser–often torn limb from limb by its enraged owner–home to eat, he does so with a mixture of social embarrassment, moral satisfaction, aesthetic disgust, and cannibal joy. Today, a few special occasions aside, the newer rectitude makes so open a statement of the connection between the excitements of collective life and those of blood sport impossible, but, less directly expressed, the connection itself remains intimate and intact.

We had a perfect right to be there, he said, looking the Javanese upstart in the eye. The native is not the only one affected by this context. When the truck drove up he ran to the river, stripped off his sarong, and plunged in so he could say, when at length they found him sitting there pouring water over his head, that he had been away bathing when the whole affair had occurred and was ignorant of it.

Dedp debts, which can get quite large on a rather short-term basis, are always to friends, never to enemies, structurally speaking. Even the Brahmana priest, an old, grave, half-way-to-Heaven type who because of its associations with the underworld would never be involved, even distantly, in a cockfight, and was difficult to approach even to other Balinese, had us called into his courtyard to ask us about what had happened, chuckling happily at the sheer extraordinariness of it all.

As we wandered around, uncertain, wistful, eager to please, people seemed to look right through us with a balinsse focused several yards behind us on some more actual stone or tree. P,ay fieldwork in Taiwan in those years meant, among other things, being constantly aware that certain topics were off-limits. Notes on the Balinese Cocktight was written Collective responses to natural evils–illness, crop failure, volcanic eruptions–almost always plqy them.

Our impressions of human life are picked up one by one, and remain for most of us loose and disorganized.

Author Clifford Geertz — was an American anthropologist and sociologist, who wrote extensively on traditional cultures and religions deeo Southeast Asia and North America. In the first dockfight, there are two sorts of bets, or toh.

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 more usual term for this sort of semantic alchemy is “metaphorical transfer,” and good technical discussions of it can be found in M.

Hooykaas, Agama Tirtha Amsterdam,p. It is 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. The use of the, to Cockfigth, “natural” visual idiom for perception–“see,” cockfightt and so forth–is more than usually misleading here, for the fact that, as mentioned earlier, Balinese follow the progress of the fight as much perhaps, as fighting cocks are actually rather hard to see except as blurs of motion, more with their bodies as with their eyes, moving covkfight limbs, heads, and trunks in gestural mimicry of the cocks’ maneuvers, means that much of the individual’s experience of the fight is kinesthetic rather than visual.


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

By the same token, you rarely get two cocks from the same group, even more rarely from the same subfaction, and virtually never from the same sub-subfaction which would be in most deepp one extended family fighting. The asil, or jungle cock, which is the basic fighting strain everywhere the sport is found, is native balinesr southern Asia, and one can buy a good example in the chicken section of almost any Balinese market for anywhere from four or five ringgits up to fifty or more.

That is, if ccokfight shouts gasal, “five,” he wants the underdog at five-to-four or, for him, four-to-five ; if he shouts “four,” he wants it at four-to-three again, he putting up the “three”if “nine” at nine-to-eight, and so on.

Clifford Geertz — was an American anthropologist and sociologist, cockvight wrote extensively on traditional cultures and religions in Southeast Asia and North Cockkfight. ANd, of course the fact that we can still develop a pretty hearty discussion suggests that the issues raised by Geertz around the time I was born are still far from totally settled.

A shadow of the experience no doubt remains with the principals, perhaps even with some of the witnesses of a deep fight, as it remains with us when we leave the theater after seeing a powerful play well-performed; but it quite soon fades to become at most a schematic memory–a diffuse glow or an abstract shudder–and usually not even that.

A peculiar fusion of Polynesian title ranks and Hindu castes, the hierarchy of pride is the moral backbone of the society. In fact, the institutionalized hostility relation, puik, is often formally initiated though its causes always lie elsewhere by such a “pardon me” bet in a deep fight, putting the symbolic fat in the fire.

Plaay arguments hold for the shallower the fight, culminating, in a reversed-signs cockfigjt, in the coin-spinning and dice-throwing amusements. It was, moreover, still possible for people who talked too openly about certain topics to get a knock on the door in the middle of the night.

More Geertz online at HyperGeertz.

Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight

When a Balinese male talks, in that almost venerative way, about “the true cockfighter,” the bebatoh “bettor” or djuru kurung “cage keeper”it is this sort of person, not those who bring the mentality of the pea-and-shell game into the quite different, inappropriate context of the cockfight, the driven gambler potet, a word which has the secondary meaning of thief or reprobateand the wistful hanger-on, that they mean.

But only in the cockfight are the sentiments upon which that hierarchy rests revealed in their natural colors. I mean, of course, the gambling. What, as we have already seen, the cockfight talks most forcibly about is status relationships, and what it says about them is that they are matters of life and death.

It is because money does, in this hardly unmaterialistic society, matter and matter very much that the more of it one risks the more of a lot of other things, such as one’s pride, one’s poise, one’s dispassion, one’s masculinity, one also risks, again only momentarily but again very publicly as well.


He persuades me that thick description is better than the thin explanations that anthropologist typically provide but offers no criteria for deciding when one description is better than another. What it does is what, for other peoples with other temperaments and other conventions, Lear and 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.

In the climactic battle if there is one; sometimes the wounded cock simply expires in the handler’s hands or immediately as it is placed down againthe cock who landed the first blow usually proceeds to finish off his weakened opponent. And though to a Benthamite this might seem merely to increase the irrationality of the enterprise that much further, to the Balinese what it mainly increases is the meaningfulness of it all.

Belo New York, originally published inpp. These rules, together with the developed lore of cocks and cockfighting which accompanies them, are written down in palm leaf manuscripts lontar; rontal passed on from generation to generation as part of the general legal and cultural tradition of the villages.

Not only are there cockfiht great many other cultural texts plau commentaries on status hierarchy and self-regard in Bali, but there are a great many other critical sectors of Balinese life besides the stratificatory and the agonistic that receive such commentary.

If he is certain in his mind that it will not win, he may just not bet at all, particularly if it is only a second cousin’s bird or if cocckfight fight is a shallow one. Surrounding all this melodrama–which the crowd packed tight around the ring follows in near silence, moving their bodies in kinesthetic sympathy with the movement of the animals, cheering their champions on with wordless hand motions, shiftings of the shoulders, turnings of the head, falling back en masse as the cock with the murderous spurs careens toward one side of the ring it is said that spectators sometimes lose eyes and fingers from being too attentivesurging forward again as they glance off toward another–is a vast body blinese extraordinarily elaborate and precisely detailed rules.

This, I must stress immediately, is not to say that the money does not matter, or that the Balinese is no more concerned about losing five hundred ringgits than fifteen. Such a conclusion would be absurd.

Savage Minds

Cockfighting men would be ashamed to go anywhere near them. They take their form from the situation that evokes them, the floor on deel they are placed, as Goffman puts it; but it is a form, and an articulate one, nonetheless. Rather than the solemn, legalistic pactmaking of the center, wagering takes place rather in the fashion in which the stock exchange used to work when it was out on the curb. Bateson and Mead have even suggested that, in line with the Balinese conception of the body ply a set of separately animated parts, cocks are viewed as detachable, self-operating penises, ambulant genitals balnese a life of their own.

Enacted and re-enacted, so far without end, the cockfight enables the Balinese, as, read and reread, Macbeth enables us, to see a dimension of his own subjectivity. Further, those who bet on the side including these people are, as I have already remarked, the more established members of the village–the solid citizens.

The loser is not consoled.

The lay has a stanza no.