Deep Play Geertz Essay



In terms impact Geertz‟s (1973) collection of essays,

The Interpretation of Cultures,

marks a definite point of departure of the “interpretive” or” “literary turn” in

contemporary anthropology (


2002: 1). “

 Deep Play: Notes on the BalineseCockfight 

” (

abbreviated to

 Deep Play

” from now on) (Geertz 1973: 412

-453) as the lastessay in this collection is a brilliant ethnographic example, in the essay form, of histheoretical shift from functionalism to interpretive anthropology. As such it has beencharacterised by being the site of sometimes heated and often polemical debates and is

regarded as “indispensable reading for most of the anthropology courses throughout theworld” (Bošković

2002: 1).So as to explore why interpretive anthropology became popular when it did I

situate Clifford Geertz's (1973) seminal essay within both the „historist‟


and „presentist‟


 perspectives. Heretofore, in the „historicist‟ sense, I briefly explore Kuhn‟s (1962) notion

of the paradigm, its impact on the social sciences and also the socio-political ferment in

which it gained popularity. Then, in the „presentist‟ perspective, I analyse the

descriptions, arguments and the meta narrative of the essay itself and refer principally to

some theoretical developments in Dell Hymes‟s edited collection of essays,

 Reinventing Anthropology

(1974), to show how Geertz‟s „thick description‟ was part of a ground

swell of theoretical changes within anthropology and u

ltimately that “

 Deep Play

” is very

much more than an ethnographic essay about the Balinese villagers. It is also, I argue,exemplary of the overall theme of 

The Interpretation of Cultures

(Geertz 1973), that is atheoretical shift towards interpretive anthropology. I conclude the discussion byreviewing three major criticisms (namely the posititivist, materialist and post modernistcritiques respectively) of Geertz's (1973) essay and his Interpretive Anthropology overthe years.


The historicist perspective was introduced to Anthropology by George Stocking (1965, 1992) and is anintroduction of a second critique regarding the formulation of theories, namely not only the struggles


the discipline but also of the struggles



discipline. Theoretical proclamations are therefore in thisview embedded in the social milieu surrounding the discipline itself and not purely on factors within thediscourse community or discipline (Kelly



The presentist perspective is an interpretation of the relevance of theoretical formulations of the past onpresent-day concerns


the discipline of Anthropology (Kelly 2004).

Clifford Geertz Deep Play: Notes on a Balinese Cockfight Essay

1626 WordsApr 21st, 20067 Pages

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. The essay "Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight" is written by a well respected anthropologist by the name of Clifford Geertz, who details his observations of the Balinese culture. Geertz was a professor at Princeton and received his Ph.D. from Harvard, as well as publishing several successful books in the field of anthropology. Geertz's essay presents a study and analysis on the Balinese culture through the male's obsessive affiliation…show more content…

In studying Bali it is easy for an anthropologist to overlook cockfighting and "aside from a few passing remarks, the cockfight has barely been noticed" (276). However through Geertz's observation he believes that the cockfighting has much more depth to it and it is not the cocks that are fighting, "actually, it is men" (276). In Bali animals are not portrayed as beautiful creatures but detested as representing demons. Much of Balinese life is adjusted to prevent any association with animals so they will "file the child's teeth" at a young age and eat "hurriedly and privately" because they believe it is beast-like (278). The Balinese are "aversive to animals," so why are they so involved with cockfights? Geertz believes the male Balinese identify with cocks as what they "most fear, hate, and are fascinated by – The Powers of Darkness" (278). Rather than treating the cocks cruelly like any other animal, they treat them with a tremendous amount of care and respect, even beyond that of fellow humans. Geertz as an anthropologist is capable of recognizing this relationship between the Balinese men and their fascination with cocks and how it has an affect on their culture. In the third section of the essay entitled "The Fight," Geertz explains how a typical cockfight is to be held. It begins with two men finding a fair opponent to match up against in a ring

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