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Cockfighting as a Way of Reading Balinese Culture in Geertz's "Deep Play"

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AUB 102b

Anca Costea

Professor: Clifford Hallam

Date Due: February 23

Cockfighting as a Way of Reading Balinese Culture in Geertz's "Deep Play"

"A community can be read as a text." Claude Lévi-Strauss

Clifford Geertz, in Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight, (p. 224) argues that the cockfights are a "Balinese reading of Balinese experience, a story they tell themselves about themselves." These events are not simply cockfights, but can be seen as a narrative "saying something about something." Geertz's analysis of cockfighting demonstrates a way of seeing and interpreting a feature of a culture. Geertz submerses himself into the villagers' daily lives, studying and gathering information from communication with natives and observations of the connection between their lives and the cockfighting ritual. Consequently, though from the standpoint of an outsider, Geertz introduces the readers into the underlying depth, art and complexity of the Balinese culture and society by analyzing the cockfighting ritual.

Upon his arrival in Bali, Clifford Geertz investigates Balinese culture. Given the importance of acceptance in the society he is about to study, he confronts an unexpected reception: "Everyone ignored us in a way only a Balinese can do. People seemed to look right through us."(Geertz 364) This situation changed radically when Geertz and his wife attended a Balinese cockfight and ran with the rest during the raid. As cockfights were forbidden, Geertz broke the law by attending such a fight, and he also, avoided responsibility by fleeing the scene. This brought him recognition in the eyes of the Balinese, and most important, acceptance. By presenting his documents to the police Geertz would have avoided arrest; consequently, the villagers would have ignored him and remained uncooperative. By running, he showed solidarity and became one of the people, "an honorary member" of the cockfighting fraternity. In this way, a closed reluctant...