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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For a discussion of it, and for the whole argument for freeing “the notion of text. 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.

Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight

When the cocks are placed down, the hero’s flees, and the crowd, led by the arrogant king, hoots in laughter. Notes on the Balinese Cockfight. Most of the fights are in fact organized and sponsored 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.

As odds-takers ppay 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 halinese.

Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight – Wikipedia

Second, the Balinese do not mathematically reduce odds, but bet directly in terms of stated odds as such. The center bet must be advanced in cash by both parties prior to the actual fight.

All this coupling of the occidental great with the oriental lowly will doubtless disturb certain sorts cf aestheticians as the earlier efforts of anthropologists to speak of Christianity and totemism in the same breath disturbed certain sorts of theologians. No temple festival should be conducted until one is made.

Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight by Brooke Drover on Prezi

The old man asks for food, and the hero spends his last coins to buy him some. It is, actually, in the smaller, shallow fights, where one finds the handful of more pure, addict-type gamblers involved–those who are in it mainly for the money–that “real” changes in social position, largely downward, are affected.

We may have moved away from the type of culturalism that ignores the political and economic context, but it seems pretty banal to point this out, at least in American anthropology French anthropology being another story. The rule about borrowing money–that you may borrow for a bet but not in one–stems and the Balinese are quite conscious of this from similar considerations: For the situation, the floor is itself created, in jury deliberations, surgical operations, block meetings, sitins, cockfights, by the cultural preoccupations–here, as we shall see, the celebration of status rivalry–which not only specify the focus but, assembling actors and arranging scenery, bring it actually into being.


In sticky, cross-loyalty situations, of which in this extraordinarily complex social system there are of course many, where a man is caught between two more or less equally balanced loyalties, he tends to wander off for a cup of coffee or something to avoid having to bet, a form of behavior reminiscent of that of American voters in similar situations.

Cockfights are illegal and the sudden appearance of the police during one of the first fights Geertz and his wife witnessed sent everyone scurrying home: For these, see V. 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.

Incest, though hardly approved, is a much less horrifying crime than bestiality. 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.

The question why such matches are interesting–indeed, for the Balinese, exquisitely absorbing–takes us out of the realm of formal concerns into more broadly sociological and social-psychological ones, and to a less purely economic idea of what “depth” in gaming amounts to.

A few moments later, one of the policemen marched importantly into the yard, looking for the village chief. Lifted up into Siva’s presence, he is given the choice of three cocks.

Hogg Baltimore,pp. Bentham’s concept of “deep play” is found in his The Theory of Legislation.

It is a symbolic manufactured representation of something very real in our social life. Bali has a three-day market week with the familiar “solar-system”-type rotation. 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 o fact than socially enforced.

Babies are not allowed to crawl for that reason.

Moreover, we had not seen the village chief all day, he must have gone to town. The spurs affixed, the two cocks are placed by their handlers who may or may not be their owners facing one another in the center of the ring.

Cockfights are illegal and the sudden appearance of the police during one of the first fights Geertz and his wife witnessed sent everyone scurrying home:. If, to quote Northrop Frye again, we go to see Macbeth to learn what a man feels like after he has gained a kingdom and lost his soul, Balinese go to cockfights to find out what a man, usually composed, aloof, almost obsessively self-absorbed, a kind of moral autocosm, feels like when, attacked, tormented, challenged, insulted, and driven in result to the extremes of fury, he has totally triumphed or been brought totally low.

Belo New York, originally published inpp. I have bet on the Unseen and won. But, here, that present is severed into a string of flashes, some more bright than others, but all of them disconnected, aesthetic quanta. Although gambling is a major and central part of the Balinese cockfight, Geertz argues that what is at stake is much more fundamental than just money, namely, prestige and status. They are both in over their heads.


Rituals such as the Balinese cockfight, Geertz concludes, are a form of text which can be read. 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.

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The phrase balineae found in the Hildreth translation, International Library of Psychologynote to p. As a genre, the cock fight has perhaps less compositional flexibility than, say, Latin comedy, but it is not entirely without any.

The use of the, to Europeans, “natural” visual idiom for perception–“see,” “watches,” and so bainese 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 their limbs, heads, and trunks in gestural mimicry of the cocks’ maneuvers, means that much of cockfigyt individual’s experience of the fight is kinesthetic rather than visual.

He does not despair, however–“I bet,” he says, “upon the Unseen World.

What the cockfight says it says in a vocabulary of sentiment–the thrill of risk, the despair of loss, the pleasure of triumph. Such a conclusion would be absurd. My earlier comment got cut short because I had to leave suddenly, but I had wanted to point out something else. A powerful olay of life as the Balinese most deeply do not want it to adapt a phrase Frye has used of Gloucester’s blinding is set in the context of a sample of it as they do in feep have it.

I have frequently heard men say that the honor of winning was much more important than the money at pay. If the giver, the wooed, replies in kind, the bet is made; if he does not, they unlock gazes and the search goes on. They asked us about it again and again I must have told the story, small detail by small detail, fifty times by the end of the daygently, affectionately, but quite insistently teasing us: Most British fights were “mains,” in which a cickfight number of cocks were aligned into two teams and balimese serially.

The next morning the village was a completely different world for us. 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 Balinese revulsion against any behavior as animal-like can hardly be overstressed.