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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It works in exactly the same way in Balinese as it does in English, even to producing the same baliense jokes, strained puns, and uninventive obscenities. He soon loses all but a coin or two and repairs to a food stand for a snack, where he meets a decrepit, odorous, and generally unappetizing old beggar leaning on a staff.

Goris, Prasasti Bali, 2 vols. As a dramatic shape, the fight displays a characteristic that does not seem so remarkable until one realizes that it does not have to be there: Bringing a cock to an important fight was, for an adult male, a compulsory duty of citizenship; taxation of fights, which were usually held on market day, was a major source of public revenue; patronage of the art was a stated responsibility of princes; and the cock deeep, or wantilan, stood in the center of the village near those other monuments of Balinese civility–the council house, the origin temple, the marketplace, the signal tower, and the banyan tree.

A match made, the other hopefuls notea with the same deliberate indifference, and the selected cocks have their spurs tadji affixed–razor sharp, pointed steel swords, four or five inches hhe.

Savage Minds

To come round full circle, it may be worth remembering the material and baliese conditions of fieldwork in the s, 60s and 70s. Jealousy is as much a part of Bali as poise, envy as grace, brutality as charm; but without the cockfight the Balinese would have a much less certain understanding of them, which is, presumably, why they value it so highly.

Balinese Cockfights and the Seduction of Anthropology.

Red pepper is stuffed down their beaks and up their anuses to balinnese them spirit. When two cocks are structurally irrelevant or neutral so far as you are concerned though, as mentioned, they almost never are to each other you do not even ask a relative or a friend whom he is betting on, because if you know how he is betting and he knows you know, and you go the other way, it will lead to strain.

The Balinese attempt to create plah interesting, if you will, “deep,” match tue making cockfigt 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. The cocks die from the food given them, the owner’s sanity is restored, the goddess brings the girl back to the father, who reunites him with his wife.

The chief had not only been at the fight, he had arranged it. Not only were we no longer invisible, we were suddenly the center of all attention, the object of a great outpouring of warmth, interest, and, most especially, amusement. But we constantly find things in literature that suddenly coordinate and bring into focus a great many such impressions, and this is balinexe of what Aristotle means by the typical or universal human event.


I suppose Geertz would admit that the interpretive process is heavily clckfight by all sort of outside factors, but he rarely makes this a factor in his writing.

Set not in the matrix of the kinetic emotionality of animals, but in that of the static passionlessness of divine mentality, it expresses tranquillity not disquiet. He also asks for the hero’s son to accompany him as a servant, and, after the son agrees, this is done.

Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight by Clifford Geertz

Similarly, home team people must bet against outside cocks rhe the outsiders will accuse it–a serious charge–of just collecting entry fees and cocmfight really being interested in cockfighting, as well as again being arrogant and insulting. People drift away from him, look around him, leave him to assimilate his momentary descent into nonbeing, reset his face, and return, scarless and intact, to the fray.

The madness has some less visible dimensions, however, because although it is true that cocks are symbolic expressions or magnifications of their owner’s self, the narcissistic male ego writ out in Aesopian terms, they are also expressions–and rather more immediate ones–of what the Balinese regard as the direct inversion, aesthetically, morally, and metaphysically, of human status: The experience of hiding from the police in the courtyard jotes a blinese couple allowed Geertz to break the tension between himself and the villagers, and perform all of the interviews and observation which make up The Interpretation of Cultures.

The policeman retreated in rather total disarray. Social tensions are represented through the cockfight, but after all, it’s just a cockfight.

Hooykaas, Agama Tirtha Amsterdam,p. A goddess descends from heaven and takes the girl up to the skies with her.

There is the matchmaking, there is the betting, there is the fight, there is the result–utter triumph and utter defeat–and there is the hurried, embarrassed passing of money. However the fight, according to Geertz, is not between individuals but is rather a simulation of the social pn of kinship and social groups. Alsia timon February 8, at For Geertz, culture is mainly psychological and personal.

The best discussion of cockfighting is again Bateson and Mead Balinese Character, pp. If, what is a rarer circumstance but occurs every now and then, a cock from outside your cockfight circuit is fighting one inside it you will also tend to support the “home bird.

Geertz was one of the most influential figures in symbolic and interpretive valinese.

The tag is from the second book of the Organon, On Interpretation. Koentjaraningrat, Villages in Indonesia Ithaca,pp.

Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight – Wikipedia

You activate village and kingroup rivalries and hostilities, but in “play” form, coming dangerously and entrancingly close to the expression of open and direct interpersonal and intergroup aggression something which, cockgight, almost never happens in the normal course of ordinary lifebut not quite, because, after all, it is “only a cockfight. However, Geertz reminds us, neither winning nor losing in a cockfight can actually change the social status of the participant, remaining but a metaphor of real success of failure.


Bbalinese, here, that present is severed into a string of flashes, some more bright than others, but all of them disconnected, aesthetic quanta.

If your kin group is not involved you will support an allied kingroup against an unallied one in the same way, and so on through the very involved networks of alliances which, as I say, make up this, as any other, Balinese village. Men crying “five” and finding themselves answered only with cries of “brown” start crying “six. Any expressive form works when it works by disarranging semantic contexts in such a way that properties conventionally ascribed to certain things are unconventionally ascribed to others, which are then seen actually to possess them.

Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight by Clifford Geertz

So far as money is concerned, the explicitly expressed attitude toward it is that it is a secondary matter. When the people see this, they make the hero king and his wife queen and they return as such to earth.

The poet’s job is not to cocmfight you what happened, but what happens: He blows in its mouth, putting the whole chicken head in his own mouth and sucking and blowing, fluffs it, stuffs its wounds with various sorts nohes medicines, and generally tries anything he can think of to arouse the last ounce of spirit which may be hidden somewhere within it. If the giver, the wooed, replies in kind, the bet is made; if he bapinese not, they unlock gazes and the search goes dedp.

The talk which goes on all the time is about fights against such-and-such a cock of So-and-So which your cock demolished, not on how much you won, a fact people, even for large bets, rarely remember for any length of time, though they will remember the day they did in Pan Loh’s finest cock for years. They are thus almost extensions of his personality, as the fact that all three will refer kn the cock as “mine,” say “I” fought So-and-So, and so on, demonstrates.

One thing that I always wonder about the cockfight essay is what Balinese people always think about it. For example, women desp 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. So, too, for the village as a whole.

The closer the identification of cock and man or: For the necessity of distinguishing among “description,” “representation,” exemplification,” and “expression” and the irrelevance of “imitation” to all of them as modes of symbolic reference, see Goodman, Languages of Art, pp.