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. For example, women and young and socially disadvantaged people are not allowed to attend cockfights, while the main players are the most respected and politically involved members of the community. The actual cockfight is a human competition, delegated to animals, where the winner gets respect and admiration from the others, while money although Geertz does describe the complex betting system in great detail is secondary. 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.
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Geertz shows how the Balinese cockfight serves as a cultural text which embodies, at least a portion of, what the real meaning of being Balinese is. Despite being illegal, cockfighting is a widespread and highly popular phenomenon in Bali, at least at the time "Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight" was written Geertz reports that the Balinese people deeply detest animals and more specifically expressions of animal-like behavior. 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, and at the same time, with what he most fears, hates, and ambivalence being what it is, is fascinated by- the powers of darkness".
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. Geertz distinguishes "deep fights", with high wages, and "shallow fights", usually with low wages of both gambling and prestige. Following Bentham, Geertz defines a "deep fight" is one in which the stakes are so high the people lose their rationality.
In the case of the Balinese cockfight, a deep fight is one in which results are unpredictable, the odds are more even and the bets are more balanced. With bets fairly even in the case of a deep fights, financial gain is not the center of the event, but rather everything which is expressed in the concept of "status". Cockfighting is a fight for statues, with bets serving only to symbolize the risk.
But it is a momentary gain or lost, 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. Participants of the "deep fights" are usually dominant members of society. However the fight, according to Geertz, is not between individuals but is rather a simulation of the social structure of kinship and social groups. People never bet against a cock from their own reference group.
Fighting always takes place between people and cocks from opposing social groups family, clan, village etc. The Balinese cockfight is, as Geertz puts it, a way of playing with fire without getting burned.
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.
The "deep play" of the Balinese cockfight, says Geertz, is like artworks which illustrate an essential insight into our very existence. It is a symbolic manufactured representation of something very real in our social life. It channels aggression and rivalry into an indirect symbolic sphere of engagement. The fights both represent and take part in forming the social and cultural structure of the Balinese people which are dramatized through the cockfight.
Rituals such as the Balinese cockfight, Geertz concludes, are a form of text which can be read.
Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight Summary
Downloads: 5 Views: The job of an anthropologist is complex. It requires a very diverse arsenal of talents and abilities that few can use successfully. An anthropologist must be able to observe the in-depth content of human nature within a society, analyze it from all aspects, and perform cross-cultural comparisons. Geertz was a professor at Princeton and received his Ph. The essay is divided into seven sections, each describing a different aspect of the Balinese cockfight. In order for Geertz to understand the Balinese culture he must adapt to it and become an active part of their society.
Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight
To the locals these fights represent an accumulation of status. Rival families, clans, and villages compete. They raise and care for their birds as an expression of self-worth and pride. Just as the word "cock" in English serves as a double entendre, it also carries a similar significance in Balinese. The roosters symbolize the manhood of their captors and fight as emissaries.
Clifford Geertz Deep Play: Notes On A Balinese Cockfight Essay