• June 23, 2019

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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A stingy man, who promises much, gives little, and begrudges that is compared to a cock which, held by the tail, leaps at another without in fact engaging him. Everybody involved has a strict set of rules that they abide by and roles that must be fulfilled. But it is a momentary gain or cockfighf, the statues is only gained or lost momentarily following the fight but is maintained in the long run, with cockfights assisting in making sure of that.

But for the Balinese, for whom nothing is more pleasurable than an affront obliquely delivered or more painful than one obliquely received–particularly when mutual acquaintances, undeceived by surfaces, are watching–such appraisive drama is deep indeed.

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. Notes on the Balinese Cockfight. Bakinese 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.

During this interval, slightly over two minutes, the handler of the wounded cock has been working frantically over it, like cockifght trainer patching a mauled boxer between rounds, to get it in shape for a last, desperate try for victory. An image, fiction, a model, a metaphor, the cockfight is a means of expression; its function is neither to assuage social passions nor to heighten them though, in its playing-with-fire way it does a bit of bothbut, in a medium of feathers, blood, crowds, and money, to display them.

As he watches fight after fight, with the cockfivht watching of an owner and a bettor for cockfighting has no more interest as a pure spectator sport than does croquet or dog racinghe grows familiar with it and what it has to say to him, much as the attentive listener to string quartets or the absorbed viewer of still life grows slowly more familiar with them in a way which opens his subjectivity to himself.

It seems important to remember that Geertz was himself formed under Talcott Parsons, and that Interpretation of Culture was the big break with that tradition Religion of Java being pretty different. In the normal course of things, the Baalinese are shy to the point of obsessiveness of open conflict.


Nor is it the only way that symbolic forms can be sociologically handled.

Cocks armed with steel spurs sharp enough bslinese cut off a finger or run a hole through a foot were running wildly around. Langer New York,p. The side bets are, however, something else altogether.

One thing that I always wonder about the cockfight essay is what Balinese people always think about it. For these, see V. Nor are winners congratulated, or events rehashed; once a match is ended the crowd’s attention turns totally to the next, with no looking back.

In deep ones, where the amounts of money are great, much more is at stake than material gain: Does he have to bxlinese to Java or Den Pasar [the capital town] to bet, he is such an important man? 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.

There is a fixed and known odds paradigm which runs in a continuous series from ten-to-nine at the short end to two-to-one on the long: So it could be reasoned that cockfighting is an art form, an expressive use of human action.

Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight by Clifford Geertz

In this case, however, perhaps because they were raising money for a school that the government was unable to give them, perhaps because raids had been few recently, perhaps, as I gathered from subsequent discussion, there was a notion that the necessary bribes had been paid, they thought they could take a chance on the central square and draw a larger and more enthusiastic crowd without attracting the attention of the law. As the three of us came tumbling into the courtyard, his wife, who had apparently been through this sort of thing before, whipped 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.

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

As more than one real Gloucester has discovered, sometimes people actually get life precisely as they most deeply do not want it. What we had actually demonstrated was our cowardice, but there is fellowship in that too.

This is not hyperbole. When the cocks are placed down, the hero’s flees, and the crowd, led by the arrogant king, hoots in laughter. The asil, or jungle cock, which is the basic fighting strain everywhere the sport is found, is native to 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.


Just like in the West, the cock in Bali symbolizes masculinity, and the rules of cockfights in every village are passed down through generations along with other legal traditions.

Money in these bets is seen as a sort of stand-in for moral importance–status or prestige. For Geertz, culture is mainly psychological and personal. Enveloped elsewhere in a haze of etiquette, a thick cloud of euphemism and ceremony, gesture and allusion, they are here expressed in only the thinnest disguise of an animal mask, a mask which in fact demonstrates them far more effectively than it conceals them. The Balinese attempt to create an interesting, if you will, “deep,” match by making the center bet as large as possible so that the cocks matched will be as equal and as fine as possible, and the outcome, thus, as unpredictable as possible.

No temple festival should be conducted until one is made.

Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight by Clifford Geertz

As in more familiar exercises in close reading, one can start anywhere in a culture’s repertoire of forms and end up anywhere else. Thus spared, he returned to dispatch the upstarts, regain the throne, reconstitute the Balinese high tradition, and halinese its most powerful, glorious, and prosperous state. Inverse arguments hold for the shallower the fight, culminating, in a reversed-signs sense, in the coin-spinning and dice-throwing amusements. A small place, about five hundred people, and relatively remote, it was its geeertz world.

We, as anthropologists, must seek to access them. Whatever game the corner boys play, they nearly always bet on the outcome. About 10 percent of the winner’s receipts are subtracted for the umpire’s share and that of the fight sponsors. 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 balinsee such.

British cockfights the sport was banned there in indeed seem to have lacked it, and to have generated, therefore, a quite different family of shapes. This page was last edited on 26 Januaryat 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. To learn that Balinese lose themselves in cockfights, which are, at least from one perspective, exemplars of selves they want to be, victors in short, bloody, violent conflicts that elevate status may contribute to our understanding of why Bali, now normally seen as a beautiful tourist balinewe inhabited by lovely people with an extraordinary level of self-control, was, shortly after WWII, the scene of massacres that killed I need to check the numbers around 80, people.

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