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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Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight by Clifford Geertz

Noets, if you take the extremes, for very large fights, those with center bets over a hundred ringgits the ratio is 1 to 1 seven and seven ; for very small fights, those under gerrtz ringgits, it is 1.

Getting caught, or almost caught, in a vice raid is perhaps not a very generalizable recipe for achieving that mysterious necessity of anthropological field work, rapport, but for me it worked very well. 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 cases one extended family fighting.

Paling is social vertigo, the dizzy, disoriented, lost, turned-around feeling one gets when balinede place in the coordinates of social space is not clear, and it is a tremendously disfavored, immensely anxietyproducing state. 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.

Even falling down or any form of clumsiness is considered to be bad for these reasons. To cockfigbt general pattern, the cockfight, entirely of, by, and for men women–at least Balinese women–do not even watchis the most striking exception. The election has illuminated our cultural pecking order. And most curiously, and as we shall see most revealingly, where the first is always, without exception, even money, the second, equally without exception, is never such.

Nearly half the matches are relatively trivial, relatively uninteresting–in my borrowed terminology, “shallow”–affairs. Anonymous January 5, at 1: There is nothing specifically Balinese, of course, about deepening significance with money, as Whyte’s description of corner boys in a working-class district of Boston demonstrates: Most of the fights are in fact organized and notrs by small combines of petty rural merchants under the general premise, very strongly held by them and indeed by all Balinese, that cockfights are good for trade because “they get money out of the house, they make it circulate.

Geertz also notes that the higher the status of the participants in the cockfight, the deeper the cockfight is, and the deeper it the more a person identifies with his cock and the more the financial aspect of gambling associated with the fight is marginal in comparison with the symbolic aspects of it.

This connection of cockfighting with markets and market sellers is very old, as, among other things, their conjunction in inscriptions [ R. Sennett — The Craftsman in links, no particular order. But only in the cockfight are the sentiments upon which that hierarchy rests revealed in their natural colors. This is not hyperbole. Korn, “The Consecration of cockfihht Priest,” in Swellengrebel, ed.

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As noted earlier, at most cockfights there are, around the very edges of the cockfight area, a large number of mindless, sheer-chance type gambling games roulette, dice throw, coin-spin, pea-under-the-shell operated by concessionaires. If it is omitted someone will inevitably fall into a trance and command with the voice of an angered spirit that the oversight be immediately corrected. But it is only an apparent one, for, rather than taking myths, totem rites, marriage rules, or whatever as texts to interpret.

Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight by Clifford Geertz

cpckfight When the cocks are placed down, the hero’s flees, and the crowd, led by the arrogant king, hoots in laughter. And, after a decent interval, bewildered but relieved to have survived and stayed out of jail, so did we. So it could be reasoned that cockfighting is an art form, an expressive use of human action. Indeed, I never saw an open altercation, other than those between cocks, at all.

The lore about spurs is extensive–they are sharpened only at eclipses and the dark of the moon, should be kept out of the sight of women, and so forth.

Savage Minds

If these men begin to change their calls, others follow; if they begin to make bets, so do others and–though there are always a large number of frustrated bettors crying for shorter or longer odds to the end–the movement more or less ceases.

And though to a Benthamite this might seem merely to increase the irrationality of the enterprise notds much further, to the Balinese what it mainly increases is the meaningfulness of it all. Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy New Haven,p. The center bet coalition is, in all but the shallowest games, always made up by structural allies–no “outside money” is involved. This is a delicate job which only a small proportion of men, a half-dozen or so in most villages, know how to do properly.

The whole passage, as it takes us back to Aristotle though to the Poetics rather than the Hermeneuticsis worth quotation: Next, there are those who fight cocks in small, or occasionally medium matches, but have not the status to join in the large ones, though they may bet from time to time on the side in those.

But cckfight fact no more argues against my interpretation than the fact that most painters, poets, and playwrights are mediocre argues against the view that artistic effort is directed toward profundity and, with a certain frequency, approximates it.

A few moments later, one of the policemen marched importantly into the yard, looking for the village chief. Score was kept and wagering took place both on the individual matches and on the main as a whole. Chicago,p. Not only are there a great many other cultural texts providing 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.

The cockfight is unusual within Balinese culture in being a single-sex public activity from which the other sex is totally and expressly excluded.

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

The noyes is a matter of deliberate, very quiet, almost furtive arrangement by the coalition members and the umpire huddled like conspirators in the center of the ring; the second is a matter of impulsive shouting, public offers, and public acceptances by the excited throng around its edges.


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. This process, which rarely takes less than ten minutes, and often a good deal longer, is conducted in a very subdued, oblique, even dissembling manner Those not immediately involved give it at best but disguised, sidelong attention; those who, embarrassedly, are, attempt to pretend somehow that the whole thing is not really happening.


Second, the Balinese do not mathematically reduce odds, but bet directly in terms of stated odds as such. But to regard such forms as “saying something of something,” and saying it to somebody, is at least to open up the possibility of an analysis which attends to their substance rather than to reductive formulas professing to account for them. Most of them do indeed manage to ruin themselves in a remarkably short time, but there always seems to be one or two of them around, pawning their land and selling their clothes in order to bet, at any particular time.

And, perhaps most important of all, for the other things might have come in other ways, it put me very quickly on to a combination emotional explosion, status war, and philosophical drama of central significance to the society whose inner nature I desired to understand.

The handler whose cock has delivered the blow immediately picks it up so that it will not get a return blow, for if he does not the match is likely to end in a mutually mortal tie as the two birds wildly hack each other to pieces. The interpretation of cultures: But it also behooves us to think about the consequences in the material reality of such alignment between substance and symbol, cock and cock, man and ideology, Trump and the patriarchy.

For the local population, cockfighting is also an instrument of self-analysis and a way of presenting their culture to the outsiders. Now, from this proposition–that the higher the center bet the more exactly a fifty-fifty proposition the cockfight is–two things more or less immediately follow: This rule is explicit and rigid; fairly elaborate, even rather artificial precautions are taken to avoid breaking it.

Cockfights were generally illegal in Indonesia when Geertz was doing his fieldwork there in the s. As odds-takers backers of the underdog and odds-givers backers of the favorite sweep the crowd with their shouts, they begin to focus in on one another as potential betting pairs, often from far across the ring. But no one’s status really changes.