“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. The essay by anthropologist Clifford Geertz, which first appeared in his best- known book The Interpretation of Cultures, has been published in Russian as a.
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Early in April ofmy wife and I arrived, malarial and diffident, in a Balinese village we intended, as anthropologists, to study.
A small place, about five hundred people, and relatively remote, it was its own world. We were intruders, professional ones, and the villagers dealt with us as Ggeertz seem always to deal with people not part of their life who yet nohes themselves upon them: For them, and to a degree for ourselves, we were nonpersons, specters, invisible men. We moved into an extended family compound that had been arranged before through the provincial government belonging to one of the four major factions in village life.
But except for our landlord and the village chief, whose cousin and notees he was, everyone ignored us in a way only a Balinese can do.
As we wandered around, uncertain, wistful, eager to please, people seemed to look right through us with a gaze focused several yards behind us on some more actual stone or tree. Almost nobody greeted us; but nobody scowled or said anything unpleasant to us either, which would have been almost as satisfactory.
If we ventured to approach someone something one is powerfully inhibited from doing in such an atmospherehe moved, negligently but definitively, away. But they acted as if we simply did not exist, which, in fact, as this behavior was designed to inform us, we did not, or anyway not yet.
My wife and I were still very much in the gust of wind stage, a most frustrating, and even, as you soon begin to doubt whether you are really real after all, unnerving one, when, ten days or so after our arrival, a large cockfight was held in the public square to raise money for a new school. Now, a few special occasions aside, cockfights are illegal in Bali under the Republic as, for not altogether unrelated reasons, they were under the Dutchlargely as a result of the pretensions to puritanism radical nationalism tends to bring with it.
The elite, which is not itself so very puritan, worries about the poor, ignorant peasant gambling all his money away, about what foreigners will think, about the waste of time better devoted to building up the country. It sees cockfighting as “primitive,” “backward,” “unprogressive,” and generally unbecoming an ambitious deepp. And, as with those other embarrassments -opium smoking, begging, or uncovered breasts-it seeks, geeftz unsystematically, to put a stop to it.
As a result, the fights are usually held in baoinese secluded corner of a village in semisecrecy, a fact which tends to slow the action a little-not very much, but the Balinese do cliffodr care to have it slowed at all.
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 cockfitht 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.
In the midst of the third match, with hundreds of people, including, still transparent, myself and my wife, fused into a single body around the ring, a superorganism in the literal sense, a truck full of policemen armed with machine guns roared up. Amid great screeching cries of “pulisi! The superorganism came instantly apart as its components scattered in all directions. People raced down the road, disappeared head first over walls, scrambled under platforms, folded themselves behind wicker screens, scuttled up coconut trees.
Cocks armed with steel spurs sharp enough to cut off a finger or run pay hole through a foot were running wildly around. Everything was dust and panic. On the established anthropological principle, When in Rome, my wife and I decided, only slightly less instantaneously than everyone else, that the thing to do was run too. We ran down the main village street, northward, away from where we were living, for we were on that side of the ring.
About half-way down another fugitive ducked suddenly into a compound-his own, it turned out-and we, seeing nothing ahead of us but rice fields, open country, and a very high volcano, followed him.
As the three of us came tumbling into the courtyard, his wife, who had apparently been through this sort of thing gesrtz, 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.
A few moments later, one of the policemen marched importantly into the yard, looking for the village chief. The chief had not only been at the fight, he had arranged it. When the truck drove up he ran to the river, stripped off his sarong, and plunged in so he could say, when at length they found him sitting there pouring water over his head, that he had been away bathing when the whole affair had occurred and was ignorant of it.
They did not believe him and fined him three hundred rupiah, which the village raised collectively. Seeing my wife and I, “White Men,” there in the yard, the policeman performed a classic double take. When he found his voice again he asked, approximately, what in the devil did we think we were doing there. Our host of five minutes leaped instantly to our defense, producing an impassioned description of who and what we were, so detailed and so accurate that it was my turn, having barely communicated with a living human being save my landlord and the village chief for more than a week, to be astonished.
We had a perfect right thhe be there, he said, looking the Javanese upstart in the eye. We were American professors; the government had cleared us; we were there to study culture; we were going to write a book to tell Americans about Bali. And we had all been there drinking tea and talking about cultural matters all afternoon and did not know anything about any cockfight.
Cultural Reader: Clifford Geertz: “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight” – summary and review
Moreover, we had not seen the village chief all day, he must have gone to town. Grertz policeman retreated in rather total disarray.
And, after a decent interval, bewildered but relieved to have survived and stayed out of jail, so did we.
The next morning the village was a completely different world for us. 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. Everyone in the village knew we had fled like everyone else.
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: But above all, everyone was extremely pleased and even more surprised that we had not simply “pulled out our papers” they knew about those too and asserted our Distinguished Visitor status, but had instead demonstrated our solidarity with what were now our covillagers.
What we had actually demonstrated was our cowardice, but there is fellowship in that too. Even the Brahmana priest, an old, grave, half-way-to-Heaven type who because of its associations with the underworld would never be involved, even distantly, in a cockfight, and was difficult to approach even to other Balinese, had us called into his courtyard to ask us about what had happened, chuckling happily at the sheer extraordinariness of it all.
In Bali, to be teased is to be accepted. It was the turning point so far as our relationship to the community was concerned, and we were quite literally “in.
geertx Getting caught, or almost caught, in a vice raid is perhaps not a very generalizable recipe for achieving that mysterious necessity of anthropological field work, rapport, but for me it worked very well. It led to a sudden and unusually complete acceptance into a society extremely difficult for outsiders to penetrate. It gave me the kind of immediate, inside view grasp of an aspect of “peasant mentality” that anthropologists not fortunate enough to flee headlong with their subjects from armed authorities normally do not get.
And, perhaps most important of all, for notrs other kn might have come in other ways, it put me very quickly on to a combination emotional explosion, status war, and philosophical drama of central significance to the society whose inner nature I desired to understand.
By the time I left I had spent about as much time looking into cockfights as into witchcraft, irrigation, caste, or marriage. Of Cocks and Men. Bali, mainly because it is Bali, is a well-studied place. Its mythology, art, ritual, social organization, patterns of child rearing, forms of law, even styles of trance, have all been microscopically examined for traces of that elusive substance Jane Belo called ” The Balinese Temper.
For it is only apparently cocks that are fighting there. Actually, it is men. To anyone who has been in Bali any length of time, the deep psychological identification of Balinese men with their cocks is unmistakable. The double entendre here is deliberate. It works in exactly the same way in Balinese as it does in English, even to producing the same tired jokes, strained puns, and uninventive obscenities.
Bateson and Mead have even suggested that, in line with the Balinese conception of the body as a set of separately animated parts, cocks are viewed as detachable, self-operating penises, ambulant genitals with a life of their own.
The language of everyday moralism is shot through, on the male side of it, with roosterish imagery. Sabungthe word for cock and one which appears in inscriptions as early as A. A desperate man who makes a last, irrational effort to extricate himself from an impossible situation is likened to a dying cock who makes one final lunge at his tormentor to drag him along to a common destruction.
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. 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. But the intimacy of men with their cocks is more than metaphorical. 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.
Whenever you see a group of Balinese men squatting idly in the council shed or along the road in their hips down, shoulders forward, knees up fashion, half or more of them will have a rooster in his hands, holding it between his thighs, bouncing it gently up and down to strengthen its legs, ruffling its feathers with abstract sensuality, pushing it out against a neighbor’s rooster to rouse its spirit, withdrawing it toward his loins to calm it again Now and then, to get a feel for another bird, a man will fiddle this way with someone else’s cock for a while, but usually by moving around to squat in place behind it, rather than just having it passed across to him as though it were merely an animal.
In the houseyard, the high-walled enclosures where the people live, fighting cocks are kept in wicker cages, moved frequently about so as to maintain the optimum balance of sun and shade.
They are fed a special diet, which varies somewhat according to individual theories but which is mostly maize, sifted for impurities with far more care than it is when mere humans are going to eat it and offered to the animal kernel by kernel. Red pepper is stuffed down their beaks and up their anuses to give them spirit. They are bathed in the same ceremonial preparation of tepid water, medicinal herbs, flowers, and onions in which infants are bathed, and for a prize cock just about as often.
Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight
Their combs are cropped, their plumage dressed, their spurs trimmed, their legs massaged, and they are inspected for flaws with the squinted concentration of a diamond merchant. A man who has a passion for cocks, an enthusiast in the literal sense of the term, can spend most of his life with them, and even those, the overwhelming majority, whose passion though intense has not entirely run away with them, can and do spend what seems not only to an outsider, but also to themselves an inordinate amount of time with them.
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 Balinese revulsion dlifford any behavior as animal-like can hardly be overstressed.
Babies are balinfse allowed to crawl for that reason. Incest, though hardly approved, is a much less horrifying crime than bestiality. The appropriate punishment for the second is death by drowning, for the first being forced to live like an animal. The main puberty rite consists in filing the child’s teeth so they will not look like animal fangs.
Not only defecation but eating is regarded as a disgusting, almost obscene activity, to be conducted hurriedly and privately, because of its association with animality.
Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight – Wikipedia
Even falling down or any form of clumsiness is considered to be bad for these reasons. Aside from cocks and a few domestic animals–oxen, ducks–of no emotional significance, the Balinese are aversive to animals and treat their large number of dogs not merely callously but with a phobic cruelty. In identifying with his cock, the Balinese man is identifying not just with his ideal self, or even his penis, but also, and at the same time, with what he covkfight fears, geegtz, and ambivalence being what it is, is fascinated by– The Powers of Darkness.
The connection of cocks and cockfighting with geert Powers, with the animalistic demons that threaten constantly to invade the small, cleared off space in which the Balinese have so carefully built their lives and devour its inhabitants, is quite explicit.
A cockfight, any cockfight, is in the first instance a blood sacrifice offered, with the appropriate chants and oblations, to the demons in order to pacify their ravenous, cannibal hunger. No temple festival should be conducted until one is made. If it is omitted someone will inevitably fall into a trance and command with the voice of an angered spirit that the oversight be immediately corrected. Collective responses to natural evils–illness, crop failure, volcanic eruptions–almost always involve them.
And that famous holiday in Bali, The Day of Silence Njepiwhen everyone sits silent and immobile all day long in order to avoid contact with a sudden influx of demons chased momentarily out of hell, is preceded the previous day by large-scale cockfights in this case legal in almost every village on the island.
In the cockfight, man and beast, good and evil, ego and id, the creative power of aroused masculinity and the destructive power of loosened animality fuse in a bloody drama of hatred, cruelty, violence, and death. It is little wonder that when, as is the invariable rule, the owner of the winning cock takes the carcass of the loser–often torn limb from limb by its enraged owner–home to eat, he does so with a mixture of social embarrassment, moral satisfaction, aesthetic disgust, and cannibal joy.
Cockfights tetadjen; sabungan are held in a ring about fifty feet square. Usually they begin toward late afternoon and run three or four hours until sunset. About nine or ten separate matches sehet comprise a program. Each match is precisely like the others in general pattern: