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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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. This is the true significance of the fights. Although the cockfights were illegal in Indonesia at the time, they were quite common. Geertz was able to immerse himself in the local culture and to bond with the Balinese because he readily participated in observing these illegal fights, despite personal risk of incarceration.

Because of his positioning himself as an insider the locals naturally trusted him and explained much about their customs to him. Above all the traditions, however, Geertz found the cockfights the most fascinating. In his book Geertz uses the fights to analyze the culture, representing their various values and fears through their recreation and competition.

Two classes of cockfight exist in Bali. Deep fights run for high bets and usually occur between upper class individuals. They are dramatic affairs which involve elaborate processes of subterfuge. There are also shallow fights which are for low bets and take place among the common people. Rather than use actual money these fights are held for the acquisition of status. Participants are competing for reputation among their people rather than actual money, which is somewhat difficult to come by. For honor they pour their best efforts into grooming and training the birds to be killers.

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Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight

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.


Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight by Clifford Geertz

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. As an anthropologist he does this by putting himself on the same level as the villagers.

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