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Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight Author(s): Clifford Geertz Source: Daedalus, Vol. 101, No.

1, Myth, Symbol, and Culture (Winter, 1972), pp. 1-37 Published by: The MIT Press on behalf of American Academy of Arts & Sciences Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20024056 Accessed: 07/10/2009 09:37
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CLIFFORD

GEERTZ

Deep Play: Notes

on the Balinese Cockfight

The Raid
of 1958, my wife and I arrived, malarial in a and diffident, we intended, as to study. A small village anthropologists, place, about five hundred and relatively it was its own world. remote, people, We were dealt with us as ones, and the villagers intruders, professional seem Balinese to deal with not part of their life who yet always people press themselves upon them: as though we were not there. For them, and to a for ourselves, we were nonpersons, invisible men. degree specters, We moved into an extended had been arranged (that family compound before to one of the four through the provincial government) belonging in factions life. But except for our landlord and the major village village cousin and brother-in-law us in a he was, everyone chief, whose ignored can do. As we wandered around, uncertain, wistful, way only a Balinese to please, eager people seemed to look right through us with a gaze focused several yards behind us on some more actual stone or tree. Almost nobody scowled or said anything unpleasant to us either, greeted us; but nobody which would have been almost as If we ventured to satisfactory. approach someone one is in such an inhibited from doing (something powerfully he moved, but If, seated or atmosphere), away. negligently difinitively, a wall, we had him at all, or he said nothing leaning against trapped, mumbled what for the Balinese is the ultimate The nonword?"yes." of course, was the villagers were watching indifference, studied; every move we made and they had an enormous amount accurate of quite information about who we were and what we were going to be doing. But as if we not exist, which, in fact, as this behavior was they acted simply did to inform us, we did not, or anyway not designed yet. in Bali. This is, as I say, general else I have been in Indo Everywhere in Morocco, I have gone into a new when nesia, and more latterly village a very close look at me, and, people have poured out from all sides to take feel as well. In Balinese at least those often, an all-too-probing villages, at all. on from the tourist circuit, nothing away People go happens pounding, into space, baskets about while chatting, making staring offerings, carrying one drifts around And the same true feeling vaguely disembodied. thing is April Balinese 1 Early in

2 on the individual level. When to relate to you at all; he

CLIFFORD GEERTZ

he seems virtually you first meet a Balinese, and Margaret is, in the term Gregory Bateson a week, a month a Mead made famous, "away."1 Then?in (with some day, never comes)?he the magic moment for reasons I have decides, people never been a quite able to fathom, that you are real, and then he becomes warm, gay, sensitive, sympathetic, though, being Balinese, always precisely some moral or controlled person. You have crossed, somehow, metaphysical shadow line. Though you are not exactly taken as a Balinese ( one has to be as a human born to that), you are at least rather than a being regarded cloud or a gust of wind. The whole of your relationship dramati complexion a in the majority one? of cases, cally changes to, gentle, almost affectionate a rather playful, rather mannered, rather bemused low-keyed, geniality. a most in the gust of wind wife and I were still very much My stage, are to doubt whether and even, as you soon begin you frustrating, really or so after our arrival, a ten real after all, unnerving one, when, days large was held in the for a new school. square to raise money cockfight public a few are in Bali under Now, aside, cockfights special occasions illegal were under for not altogether the Republic unrelated reasons, (as, they as a result of the to the Dutch), radical pretensions largely puritanism is not itself so very it. The elite, which nationalism tends to bring with all his money about the poor, ignorant peasant puritan, worries gambling about what will of time better about the waste think, away, foreigners as to It sees cockfighting devoted up the country. building "primitive," an ambitious and generally backward," unbecoming "unprogressive," nation. And, as with those other embarrassments?opium smoking, begging, not
or uncovered breasts?it seeks, rather unsystematically, to put a stop to it.

like drinking or, today, smoking mari during prohibition of Life," nonetheless huana, cockfights, being a part of "The Balinese Way on and with extraordinary like prohibition And, go happening, frequency. or marihuana, from time to time the police (who, in 1958 at least, were almost all not Balinese but Javanese) feel called upon to make a raid, con fiscate the cocks and spurs, fine a few people, and even now and then expose sun for a as some of them in the object lessons which never, day tropical the learned, even though occasionally, somehow, get quite occasionally, dies. object corner of a As a result, the fights are usually held in a secluded village a fact which in semisecrecy, tends to slow the action a little?not very much, but the Balinese do not care to have it slowed at all. In this case, however, were for a school that the government they raising money perhaps because was unable to give them, raids had been few recently, because perhaps as I there was a notion that from subsequent discussion, gathered perhaps, bribes had been paid, they thought they could take a chance the necessary more crowd enthusiastic on the central square and draw a larger and the attention of the law. without attracting Of course,

THE BALINESE COCKFIGHT They were

In the midst of of the third match, with hundreds wrong. a still transparent, myself and my wife, fused into people, including, single a in the literal sense, a truck full of body around the ring, superorganism armed with machine guns roared up. Amid great screeching policemen cries of "pulisi! pulisi!" from the crowd, the jumped out, and, policemen to into the center of the ring, began their guns around springing swing in a motion to like gangsters not going so far as actually picture, though came as its components scat fire them. The superorganism instantly apart tered in all directions. raced down the road, disappeared head first People over walls, scrambled themselves behind wicker under platforms, folded trees. Cocks scuttled up coconut steel spurs sharp armed with screens, or run a hole a foot were to cut off a running wildly enough through finger was dust and around. Everything panic. in Rome, my wife On the established principle, When anthropological and I decided, than everyone else, that the less instantaneously only slightly was run too. We ran down the main street, northward, thing to do village we were on that side of the from where we were away ring. living, for into a compound? About half-way down another fugitive ducked suddenly his own, it turned out?and we, seeing nothing ahead of us but rice fields, followed him. As the three of us open country, and a very high volcano, came into the courtyard, his wife, who had apparently been tumbling out a table, a tablecloth, three this sort of thing before, whipped through communica and three cups of tea, and we all, without chairs, any explicit sat down, commenced to sip tea, and sought to compose tion whatsoever,
ourselves.

A few moments marched into later, one of the policemen importantly the yard, looking for the village chief had not only been at chief. (The the fight, he had arranged it.When the truck drove up he ran to the river, in so he could say, when at stripped off his sarong, and plunged length they over his head, found him sitting there pouring water that he had been the whole affair had occurred and was ignorant of it. away bathing when and fined him three hundred the rupiah, which wife and I, "White Men," there in collectively.) Seeing my village a classic double the yard, the policeman take. When he found performed in the devil did we think his voice again he asked, what approximately, we were to our there. Our host of five minutes doing leaped instantly an of who and what we were, defense, producing impassioned description so detailed that it was my turn, having barely communi and so accurate cated 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 to be there, he said, looking the Javanese upstart in the eye. We were American professors; the government there to study culture; we were had cleared us; we were to write a book to tell Americans about Bali. And we had all been going tea and there drinking about cultural matters all afternoon and did talking They raised did not believe him

4 not know

CLIFFORD

GEERTZ

we had not seen the about any anything cockfight. Moreover, chief all day, he must have gone to town. The retreated village policeman in rather total but re And, after a decent interval, bewildered disarray. lieved to have survived and out of jail, so did we. stayed The next morning the village was a different world for us. Not completely were we no we were the center of all atten only longer invisible, suddenly the object of a great outpouring of warmth, tion, interest, and, most espe amusement. in the knew we had fled like everyone cially, Everyone village 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 day), gently, us: but quite insistently affectionately, teasing "Why didn't you just stand there and tell the police who you were?" "Why didn't you just say you were and not betting?" "Were you really afraid of those little only watching minded and, even when fleeing for their guns?" As always, kinesthetically lives (or, as happened the world's them), eight years later, surrendering most poised also over and over again, mimicked, they gleefully people, our were our and what graceless style of running panic they claimed stricken facial expressions. But above all, everyone was extremely pleased and even more that we had not simply "pulled out our papers" surprised knew about those too ) and asserted our Distinguished Visitor status, ( they now our our but had instead demonstrated with what were solidarity was our cowardice, but (What we had actually demonstrated covillagers. an old, grave, in that too.) Even there is fellowship the Brahmana priest, with the under of its associations type who because half-way-to-Heaven never be involved, even in a cockfight, and was world would distantly, to approach even to other Balinese, had us called into his courtyard difficult at the sheer extra to ask us about what had happened, happily chuckling of it all. ordinariness It was the turning point so far In Bali, to be teased is to be accepted. as our was concerned, to the community and we were quite relationship "in." The whole village up to us, probably more than it ever literally opened never have gotten to that priest, would have otherwise (I might actually one of my best informants), and our accidental host became and certainly or almost in a vice raid is much faster. Getting very caught, caught, perhaps not a very that mysterious of recipe for achieving necessity generalizable It led field work, rapport, but for me it worked well. very anthropological into a society extremely to a sudden and unusually acceptance complete to penetrate. It gave me the kind of immediate, inside difficult for outsiders not for view grasp of an aspect of "peasant mentality" that anthropologists to flee their subjects from armed authorities enough headlong with most not get. And, important of all, for the other things perhaps normally do come in other ways, it put me very quickly on to a combination might have status war, and drama of central signi emotional explosion, philosophical to the society whose inner nature I desired to understand. ficance By the tunate

THE BALINESE COCKFIGHT time I left I had


irrigation,

5 into cockfights as into

spent

about
or

as much
marriage.

time

looking

witchcraft,

caste,

Of Cocks and Men


it is Bali, is a well-studied art, Bali, mainly because place. Its mythology, forms of law, even social organization, of child rearing, ritual, patterns for traces of that examined styles of trance, have all been microscopically elusive substance Jane Belo called "The Balinese Temper."2 But, aside from as a few remarks, the cockfight has barely been noticed, passing although a it is at least as important a revela of consuming power popular obsession a Balinese tion of what being "is really like" as these more celebrated As much of America surfaces in a ball park, on a golf links, phenomena.3 at a race track, or around a in a cock Bali surfaces poker table, much of it For it is only there. Actually, cocks that are fighting ring. apparently
is men.

anyone who has been in Bali any length of time, the deep psycho The of Balinese men with their cocks is unmistakable. logical identification in in here is deliberate. It works the same way double entendre exactly as it does in even to Balinese the same tired jokes, producing English, strained puns, and uninventive Bateson obscenities. have even and Mead in line with the Balinese of the body as a set that, suggested conception as detachable, of separately animated parts, cocks are viewed self-operating a life of their own.4 And while I do not ambulant penises, genitals with or disconfirm have the kind of unconscious this material either to confirm the fact that they are masculine notion, par excellence intriguing symbols as the fact is about as indubitable, and to the Balinese about as evident, that water runs downhill. is shot through, on the male side The language of everyday moralism of it, with roosterish the word for cock (and one which imagery. Sabung, as as a.d. 922), to in inscriptions is used metaphorically appears early
mean "hero," "warrior," "champion," "man of parts," "political candidate,"

To

man whose or "bachelor," "dandy," "lady-killer," "tough guy." A pompous to a tailless cock who behavior above his station is compared presumes a man struts about as one. A though he had large, spectacular desperate a last, irrational effort to extricate himself who makes from an impossible one final is likened to a at his tor situation dying cock who makes lunge mentor to him along to a common A stingy man, who destruction. drag to a cock that is compared little, and begrudges gives promises much, in fact engaging held by the tail, leaps at another without him. A which, man still sex or someone in a new with the opposite young shy marriageable a is called "a fighting cock caged for job anxious to make good impression the first time."5 Court inheritance trials, wars, political contests, disputes, are all street arguments to and compared cockfights.6 Even the very island

6 itself

CLIFFORD GEERTZ

is perceived from its shape as a small, proud cock, poised, neck ex to large, feckless, tended, back taut, tail raised, in eternal challenge shape
less Java.7

Balinese men, mous amount

men with their cocks is more than metaphorical. intimacy of an enor or anyway a of Balinese men, large majority spend of time with their favorites, them, them, feeding grooming or just at them, trying them out against one another, discussing gazing them with a mixture of rapt admiration and dreamy self-absorb tion. When ever you see a men in the council shed group of Balinese squatting idly or the road in their shoulders forward, knees up fashion, along hips down, it between half or more of them will have a rooster in his hands, holding its legs, ruffling its his thighs, bouncing it gently up and down to strengthen it out against a neighbor s rooster feathers with abstract sensuality, pushing to rouse its spirit, it toward his loins to calm it again. Now withdrawing and then, to get a feel for another bird, a man will fiddle this way with someone around to squat else's cock for a while, but usually by moving across to him as in it, rather than just having it passed though place behind But the
it were merely an animal.

In the houseyard, the high-walled enclosures where the people live, cocks are kept in wicker moved about so as to cages, fighting frequently maintain balance of sun and shade. They are fed a the optimum special to individual varies somewhat is theories but which diet, which according sifted for impurities with far more care than it is when mere mostly maize, humans are going to eat it and offered to the animal kernel by kernel. Red is stuffed down their beaks and up their anuses to give them pepper spirit. are bathed in the same ceremonial of tepid water, medi preparation They infants are bathed, and for a prize cinal herbs, flowers, and onions in which their plumage cock just about as often. Their combs are cropped, dressed, their legs massaged, and they are inspected their spurs trimmed, for flaws A man who has concentration the squinted with of a diamond merchant. a in the literal sense of the term, can spend for cocks, an enthusiast passion most of his life with them, and even those, the overwhelming majority, run away with intense has not entirely whose them, can passion though an outsider, but also to themselves, seems not and do spend what only to an inordinate amount of time with them. "I am cock crazy," my landlord, a standards, used to moan as he went quite ordinary aficionado by Balinese or conduct another to move another cage, give another bath, feeding.
"We're all cock crazy."

al less visible dimensions, because however, or are of expressions magnifications symbolic though their owner's self, the narcissistic male ego writ out in Aesopian terms, they are also what the Balinese rather more immediate ones?of expressions?and as the direct and metaphysically, inversion, aesthetically, morally, regard of human status :animality. The

has some madness it is true that cocks

THE BALINESE COCKFIGHT The Balinese be revulsion

can as animal-like against any behavior regarded are not allowed to crawl for that reason. Babies hardly is a much crime than besti less horrifying Incest, though hardly approved, for the second is death by drowning, ality. (The appropriate punishment are repre for the first being forced to live like an animal.)8 Most demons overstressed.
sented?in sculpture, dance, ritual, myth?in some real or fantastic animal

so rite consists in form. The main they will filing the child's teeth puberty not look like animal Not only defecation but eating is regarded as a fangs. almost obscene activity, to be conducted hurriedly and privately, disgusting, of its association with animality. Even because down or any form falling is considered to be bad for these reasons. Aside of clumsiness from cocks no emotional the and a few domestic ducks?of animals?oxen, significance, are aversive to animals and treat their Balinese number of dogs not large a In identifying with his cock, merely callously but with cruelty. phobic not just with his ideal self, or even his penis, the Balinese man is identifying but also, and at the same time, with what he most fears, hates, and ambiv alence The such Powers, with the animalistic to invade the small, cleared off demons that threaten constantly the Balinese have so carefully built their lives and devour space in which its inhabitants, is quite explicit. A is in the first any cockfight, cockfight, instance a blood sacrifice offered, with the chants and oblations, appropriate to the demons in order to their ravenous, cannibal pacify hunger. No temple festival should be conducted until one is made. someone (If it is omitted will fall into a trance and command with the voice of an inevitably angered be immediately Collective corrected.) spirit that the oversight responses to natural evils?illness, crop failure, volcanic eruptions?almost always in Bali, The involve them. And that famous holiday Day of Silence (Njepi), when everyone sits silent and immobile all day long in order to avoid con a sudden tact with influx of demons out of hell, is chased momentarily the previous this case legal) (in preceded day by large-scale cockfights in almost every on the island. village man and beast, In the cockfight, good and evil, ego and id, the creative of aroused and the destructive ani power power of loosened masculinity fuse in a bloody drama of hatred, and death. mality cruelty, violence, It is little wonder as is the invariable that when, rule, the owner of the cock takes the carcass of the loser?often torn limb from limb winning by its to eat, he does so with a mixture of social em enraged owner?home moral aesthetic and cannibal barrassment, satisfaction, disgust, joy. Or that a man who has lost an important is sometimes driven to wreck fight an act of his family shrines and curse the (and social) gods, metaphysical suicide. Or that in seeking earthly for heaven and hell the Bali analogues nese compare the former to the mood of a man whose cock has just won, the latter to that of a man whose cock has just lost. being what connection it is, is fascinated by?The of cocks and cockfighting Powers with of Darkness.

CLIFFORD GEERTZ

The Fight
are held in a ring about (tetadjen; Cockfights sabungan) fifty feet toward late afternoon and run three or four square. Usually they begin a hours until sunset. About nine or ten separate matches (sehet) comprise is Each match like the others in general pattern: there program. precisely no connection no variation is no main match, between individual matches, on a in their format, and each is ad hoc basis. After arranged completely a debris is cleaned away?the bets paid, fight has ended and the emotional
the curses cursed, the carcasses possessed?seven, eight, perhaps even a

into the ring with a cock and seek to find there a slip negligently ten min for it. This process, which logical opponent rarely takes less than a a very subdued, in is conducted utes, and often good deal longer, oblique, even manner. Those not immediately involved give it at best dissembling but disguised, those who, are, attempt attention; sidelong embarrassedly, is not really happening. to that the whole somehow thing pretend A match made, retire with the other hopefuls the same deliberate and the selected cocks have their spurs (tadji) affixed?razor indifference, steel swords, four or five inches long. This is a delicate job sharp, pointed or so in most a small of men, a half-dozen which villages, only proportion the spurs also provides know how to do properly. The man who attaches its owner awards him the and if the rooster he assists wins them, spur-leg a of the victim. The spurs are affixed by winding long length of string around the foot of the spur and the leg of the cock. For reasons I shall come it is done somewhat to from case to case, and is an differently presently, are lore about spurs is extensive?they deliberate affair. The obsessively at and the dark of the moon, should be kept out only eclipses sharpened and so forth. And they are handled, both in use and of the sight of women, and sensuality the of fussiness combination the same curious out, with Balinese direct toward ritual objects generally. who may The spurs affixed, the two cocks are placed by their handlers ( or may not be their owners ) facing one another in the center of the ring.9 in which in a of water, A coconut pierced with a small hole is placed pail it takes about twenty-one seconds to sink, a period known as a tjeng and these at of a slit gong. During and end by the beating marked beginning are not to touch seconds the handlers ) (pengangkeb twenty-one permitted the animals have not fought during their roosters. If, as sometimes happens, in and otherwise this time, they are picked up, fluffed, pulled, prodded, in the center of the ring and the process begins again. sulted, and put back to fight at all, or one keeps running away, in which Sometimes they refuse a wicker are case cage, which usually gets together under they imprisoned them engaged. at one Most of the time, in any case, the cocks fly almost immediately in a of animal another explosion head-thrusting, leg-kicking wing-beating,

dozen men

THE BALINESE COCKFIGHT

so pure, so absolute, as to be almost and in its own way so beautiful, fury a Platonic one or the other moments of hate. Within abstract, concept drives home a solid blow with his spur. The handler whose cock has de livered the blow it up so that it will not get a return immediately picks is a tie blow, for if he does not the match likely to end in mutually mortal as the two birds true hack each other to pieces. This is wildly particularly the spur sticks in its victim's if, as often happens, body, for then the aggres sor is at the foe. mercy of his wounded With the birds again in the hands of their handlers, is now the coconut sunk three times after which the cock which has landed the blow must be set down to show that he is firm, a fact he demonstrates idly by wandering around the rink for a coconut sink. The coconut is then sunk twice more and over two minutes, the handler of the slightly a cock has been over it, like a trainer working frantically patching mauled boxer between for rounds, to get it in shape for a last, desperate try the whole chicken head in his own victory. He blows in its mouth, putting mouth and sucking and blowing, fluffs it, stuffs its wounds with various sorts of medicines, and generally tries can think of to arouse the last anything he ounce of which may be hidden it. By the time he is somewhere within spirit forced to put it back down he is in chicken blood, but, as usually drenched in prize a is worth his in gold. Some of them good handler fighting, weight can make the dead walk, at least virtually long enough for the second and final round. wounded In the climactic battle cock the wounded (if there is one; sometimes in the handler's hands or as it is down simply expires placed immediately the cock who landed the first blow to finish off his again), usually proceeds weakened But this is far from an inevitable for if a outcome, opponent. cock can walk he can and if he can fight, he can kill, and what counts fight, is which cock expires first. If the wounded one can get a stab in and stagger on until the other he is the official winner, even if he himself drops, topples
over an instant later.

the fight must recommence. this interval, During

all this melodrama?which the crowd packed Surrounding tight around the ring follows in near silence, their bodies in kinesthetic moving sympathy with the movement of the animals, on with word their champions cheering less hand motions, shiftings of the shoulders, turnings of the head, falling as the cock with back en masse the murderous toward one spurs careens side of the ring ( it is said that sometimes lose eyes and spectators fingers too attentive), from being surging forward again as they glance off toward a vast another?is elaborate and detailed body of extraordinarily precisely
rules.

which

lore of cocks and rules, together with the developed cockfighting down in palm leaf manuscripts them, are written accompanies ( lon to generation as part of the tar; rontal) passed on from generation general

These

10 legal and cultural

CLIFFORD GEERTZ

tradition of the villages. At a fight, the umpire (saja man who manages in charge the coconut?is kembar)?the komong; djuru is absolute. of their application I have never seen an um and his authority on any even more despondent subject, pire's judgment questioned by the nor have I ever heard, even in a directed of unfairness losers, private, charge in general. Only about umpires one, or, for that matter, complaints against the complexity of the code, solid, and, given well-trusted, exceptionally citizens this job, and in fact men will bring their knowledgeable perform to over men. It is also the umpire cocks only to fights presided by such occa rare in the extreme, accusations whom of cheating, which, though cases are referred; and it is he who in the not sionally arise, infrequent where the cocks expire virtually decides which for, (if either, together there can be ties) the Balinese do not care for such an outcome, though a a a went first. Likened to a he is all of priest, and policeman, judge, king, the animal passion of the fight pro these, and under his assured direction I saw ceeds within the civic certainty of the law. In the dozens of cockfights in Bali, I never once saw an altercation about rules. Indeed, I never saw an cocks, at all. open altercation, other than those between of an event which, taken as a fact of nature, is This crosswise doubleness defines untrammeled taken as a fact of culture, is form perfected, and, rage as a A cockfight for a is what, the cockfight entity. searching sociological name for not vertebrate to be called a group and not enough something to be called a crowd, Erving Goffman has called a structureless enough in a common flow of ac set of persons "focused gathering"?a engrossed in terms of that flow.10 Such gatherings and relating to one another tivity in them fluctuate; that the activity meet the participants and disperse; reoccurs rather than a that focuses them is discreet?a process particulate that one that endures. They take their form from the situation continuous as Goffman are evokes them, the floor on which puts it; but it they placed, an articulate is a form, and For the situation, the floor is one, nonetheless. sit in jury deliberations, block meetings, itself created, surgical operations, as we shall see, the the cultural preoccupations?here, ins, cockfights, by assem not only celebration of status rivalry?which specify the focus but, actors and it actually into being. scenery, bring arranging bling invasion of 1908), In classical times (that is to say, prior to the Dutch the when there were no bureaucrats around to improve popular morality, a cock to societal matter. Bringing of a cockfight was an explicitly staging an adult male, a an duty of citizenship; important fight was, for compulsory was a major taxation of fights, which were usually held on market day, of source of of the art was a stated responsibility public revenue; patronage and the cock ring, or wantilan, stood in the center of the village princes; the near those other monuments of Balinese council house, civility?the tree. To the signal tower, and the banyan origin temple, the marketplace, so open a a few occasions aside, the newer rectitude makes special day,

THE BALINESE COCKFIGHT

11

life and statement of the connection of collective between the excitements those of blood sport impossible, but, less directly the connection expressed, to it is necessary itself remains intimate and intact. To expose it, however, turn to the aspect of all the others pivot, and around which cockfighting an aspect I have thus far studiously they exercise their force, through which I mean, of course, the gambling. ignored.

Odds and Even Money


never The Balinese to do in a complicated
no exception.

in a do anything simple way and to this generalization one,

that they can contrive cockfight wagering is

In the first place, there are two sorts of bets, or toh.11 There is the single axial bet in the center between the principals and there is (toh ketengah), the cloud of ones around the of the audi ring between members peripheral ence ( toh kesasi ). The first is the second typically small. The typically large; first is collective, involving coalitions of bettors clustering around the owner; the second is individual, man to man. The first is a matter of deliberate, almost furtive arrangement and the the coalition members very quiet, by in the center of the ring; the second is a huddled like conspirators umpire matter of impulsive by the shouting, public offers, and public acceptances excited around its edges. And most curiously, and as we shall see throng most even money, the first is always, without exception, revealingly, where the second, equally without is never such. What is a fair coin in exception, the center is a biased one on the side. in again with a webwork The center bet is the official one, hedged of the two cock owners, with the umpire as over rules, and is made between seer and as I say, is always relatively and public witness.12 This bet, which, sometimes very large, is never raised simply by the owner in whose name it seven or is made, but by him together with four or five, sometimes eight, close friends. He may, if he is not espe mates, neighbors, allies?kin, village not even be the major contributor, cially well-to-do, though, if only to show that he is not involved in any chicanery, he must be a significant one. for which I have exact and reliable data on Of the fifty-seven matches to five hundred, with a mean the center bet, the range is from fifteen ringgits at and with the distribution rather noticeably trimodal: eighty-five being small fights ( 15 ringgits either side of 35 ) accounting for about 45 per cent ones (20 of the total number; medium ringgits either side of 70) for about 25 per cent; and 75 ringgits either side of 175 ) for about 20 per cent, large ( ones out at the extremes. with a few very small and very In a society large the normal daily wage of a manual an ordi where laborer?a brickmaker, a market a about three and con nary farmworker, porter?was day, ringgits were held on the average about every two-and sidering the fact that fights a-half days in the immediate area I studied, this is clearly serious gambling, even if the bets are rather than individual efforts. pooled

12 The side bets

CLIFFORD

GEERTZ

than the else altogether. Rather something of the center, wagering takes place rather in solemn, legalistic pactmaking in which to work when the fashion it was out on the stock exchange used a fixed and known odds runs in a con the curb. There is paradigm which tinuous series from ten-to-nine at the long: at the short end to two-to-one to back the 10-9, 9-8, 8-7, 7-6, 6-5, 5-4, 4-3, 3-2, 2-1. The man who wishes are, however, cock (leaving aside how favorites, kebut, and underdogs, ngai, underdog the are established for the moment shouts the short-side number ) indicating the to be given. That is, if he shouts gasal, "five," he wants odds he wants at five-to-four for him, four-to-five ) ; if he shouts "four," he ( or, underdog wants it at four-to-three (again, he putting up the "three"), if "nine," at nine so on. A man the favorite, and thus considering to-eight, and backing giving odds if he can get them short enough, indicates the fact by crying out the or whatever.13 of that cock?"brown," color-type "speckled," and odds-givers (backers of the underdog) (backers of to focus in on the crowd with their shouts, they begin across the ring. The potential betting pairs, often from far taker tries to shout the giver into longer odds, the giver to shout the taker in this situation, will signal into shorter ones.14 The taker, who is the wooer a to make at the odds he is how large a bet he wishes shouting by holding number of fingers up in front of his face and them. If the vigorously waving in kind, the bet is made; if he does not, they unlock giver, the wooed, replies and the search goes on. gazes As odds-takers the favorite)sweep one another as takes place after the center bet has been made side betting, which its size announced, consists then in a rising of shouts as crescendo to anyone who will accept their propositions offer backers of the underdog those who are backing the favorite but do not like the price be them, while the color of the cock to show they shout equally ing offered, frenetically too are to bet but want shorter odds. desperate in that which tends to be very consensual Almost always odds-calling, one time almost all callers are same at any thing, starts off toward calling the or four-to-three?and then moves, the long end of the range?five-to-four toward the short end with greater or lesser speed and to also consensually, an ? greater or lesser themselves crying "five" and finding degree. Men the cries of "brown" start crying "six," either swered only with drawing them or retiring from the scene as their other callers fairly quickly with offers are snapped up. If the change is made and partners are too-generous to "seven," and so on, only in a move is repeated still scarce, the procedure "nine" or "ten" the ultimate and in the very largest fights, reaching rarely, if the cocks are clearly mismatched, there may be no up levels. Occasionally, at all, or even a movement down the scale to four-to-three, ward movement The and
three-to-two, very, very rarely two-to-one, a shift which is accompanied by

declining number. creasing

number

of bets But

as a shift is ac?ompanied upward is for the betting the general pattern

by an to move

in a

THE BALINESE COCKFIGHT shorter or longer distance even money, with pole of
four-to-three to eight-to-seven

13

up the scale toward the, for sidebets, nonexistent the of bets falling in the majority overwhelming
range.15

for the release of the cocks the moment by the handlers approaches, the screaming, at least in a match where the center bet is large, reaches al most frenzied as the bettors unfulfilled try desper proportions remaining to find a last minute at a can live with. Where the ately partner ( price they center bet is small, the tends to occur: betting dies off, into opposite trailing and people In a large-bet, well lose interest.) silence, as odds lengthen made match?the as "real kind of match the Balinese regard cockfighting"? the mob scene the sense that sheer chaos is about to break loose, quality, with all those waving, men is quite strong, shouting, pushing, clambering an effect which is the intense stillness that falls with only heightened by instant suddenness, rather as if someone had turned off the current, when the slit gong sounds, the cocks are put down, and the battle begins. it ends, anywhere When from fifteen seconds to five minutes later, all bets are immediately no IOU's, at least to a bet There are absolutely paid. ting opponent. One may, of course, borrow from a friend before offering or a wager, but to offer or accept it you must have the money al accepting in hand and, if you lose, you must pay it on the before the next ready spot, match begins. This is an iron rule, and as I have never heard of a disputed decision there must sometimes I be some), umpire's (though doubtless have also never heard of a welshed in a worked-up because bet, perhaps crowd the consequences to be be, as they are reported cockfight might sometimes for cheaters, drastic and immediate. It is, in any case, this formal center bets between balanced assymetry and unbalanced side ones that poses the critical for a problem analytical sees as the link the fight to the theory which cockfight wagering connecting wider world of Balinese culture. It also suggests the way to go about solving it and the link. demonstrating The first point that needs to be made in this connection is that the higher the center bet, the more likely the match will in actual fact be an even one. of rationality Simple considerations suggest that. If you are betting fifteen on a cock, you even money even to go be ringgits might willing along with if you feel your animal somewhat the less promising. But if you are betting five hundred you are very, very likely to be loathe to do so. Thus, in large bet fights, which of course involve the better animals, care is tremendous taken to see that the cocks are about as as to size, matched evenly general and so on as is humanly condition, pugnacity, possible. The different ways of the spurs of the animals are often to secure this. If adjusting employed one cock seems an will be made to position his spur at stronger, agreement a kind of at which slightly less advantageous angle?a spur handicapping, affixers are, so it is said, skilled. More care will be taken, too, to extremely them exactly as to abilities. employ skillful handlers and to match

As

14 In short, in a

CLIFFORD GEERTZ

to make the match a genuinely large-bet fight the pressure is enormous, felt as such. For and is consciously proposition fifty-fifty is somewhat medium less, and for small ones less yet, fights the pressure an effort to make is equal, though there always things at least approximately to make an even for even at fifteen ringgits (five days work ) no one wants I statistics bet in a clearly unfavorable situation. And, again, what money the favorite won have tend to bear this out. In my fifty-seven matches, a 1.4 to 1 ratio. But if times over-all, the underdog twenty-four, thirty-three one center bets, the ratios turn out to be the figures at sixty ringgits splits 1.1 to 1 (twelve favorites, eleven underdogs) for those above this line, and 1.6 to 1 (twenty-one it. Or, if you take the and thirteen) for those below for very large fights, those with center bets over a hundred extremes, ring under gits the ratio is 1 to 1 (seven and seven); for very small fights, those it is 1.9 to 1 (nineteen and ten ) .16 forty ringgits, the center bet the more the higher from this proposition?that Now, more or less a is?two the cockfight things proposition fifty-fifty exactly is the pull the higher the center bet, the greater follow: (1) immediately on the side end of the wagering spectrum and betting toward the short-odds the center bet, the greater the volume of side the higher vice versa; (2) and vice versa. betting The logic is similar in both cases. The closer the fight is in fact to even the long end of the odds will appear and, there the less attractive money, the shorter it must be if there are to be takers. That this is the case fore, own the is apparent from the Balinese's from mere inspection, analysis of more I was able to collect. observations and from what matter, systematic and complete of side the difficulty of making Given recordings precise in all my is hard to cast in numerical this argument form, but betting, mini a cases the odds-taker consensual point, quite pronounced odds-giver, a guess, in max to three-quarters the bulk two-thirds saddle where (at was three or four points further are most cases) of the bets actually made, than the scale toward the shorter end for the large-center-bet fights along the ones in between. In detail, for the small ones, with medium generally the is quite consistent: fit is not, of course, exact, but the general pattern power of the center bet to pull the side bets toward its own even-money to its size, because its size is directly pro is directly pattern proportional to which As to the the cocks are in fact evenly matched. degree portional is greater in large-center-bet total wagering for the volume question, fights sense not such fights are considered more "interesting," because only in the more is at stake in that more that they are less predictable, but, crucially, conse in terms of the terms of money, them?in quality of the cocks, and as we shall see, in terms of social quently, prestige.17 is coin on the outside of fair coin in the middle, biased The paradox a one. The two in thus systems, though formally apparent merely betting are not to one another, but part of a single congruent, really contradictory

THE BALINESE COCKFIGHT

15

the center bet is, so to the "center of gravity," larger system in which speak, the larger it is the more so, the outside bets toward the short-odds drawing, or end of the scale. The center bet thus "makes the game," perhaps better, a notion of defines it, signals what, following I am going Jeremy Bentham's, to call its "depth." Balinese if you will, "deep," match attempt to create an interesting, the center bet as large as so that the cocks matched by making possible will be as equal and as fine as and the outcome, thus, as unpredic possible, are table as possible. They do not always succeed. Nearly half the matches trivial, relatively relatively my borrowed uninteresting?in terminology, But that fact no more argues against my interpretation "shallow"?affairs. than the fact that most painters, poets, and are mediocre argues playwrights the view that artistic effort is directed toward profundity and, with against a certain it. The image of artistic technique is in frequency, approximates deed exact: the center bet is a means, a device, for creating "interesting," not the reason, or at least not the main reason, "deep" matches, why they are the source of their fascination, the substance of their depth. interesting, The question why are such matches for the Balinese, interesting?indeed, us out of the realm of formal concerns into exquisitely absorbing?takes more and social-psychological a less ones, and to broadly sociological purely economic idea of what "depth" in gaming amounts to.18 The

Playing with Fire


Bentham's concept of "deep play" is found in his The Theory of Legis lation.19 By it he means in which the stakes are so play high that it is, from his utilitarian irrational for men to engage in it at all. If standpoint, a man whose or fortune is a thousand pounds ( ringgits )wages five hundred of it on an even bet, the marginal of the pound he stands to win is utility of the one he stands to lose. In clearly less than the marginal disutility this is the case for both parties. are both in over genuine deep play, They come their heads. Having in search of together pleasure they have entered into a which will bring the participants, considered relationship collectively, net pain rather than net conclusion was, therefore, that pleasure. Bentham's was immoral from first and, a typical step for him, deep play principles should be prevented legally. But more than the ethical at least for our concerns interesting problem, is that the logical force of Bentham's men do engage here, despite analysis in such and often, and even in the face of law's play, both passionately and those who think as he does revenge. For Bentham (nowdays mainly and a few psychiatrists), the explanation economists, is, as I have lawyers, said, that such men are irrational?addicts, fetishists, children, fools, savages, who need only to be But for the Balinese, themselves. protected against it in so many words, do not formulate the explanation though naturally they

16

CLIFFORD GEERTZ

is less a measure lies in the fact that in such play money of utility, had or or imposed. than it is a symbol of moral import, perceived expected, It is, in fact, in shallow games, ones in which smaller amounts of money are involved, that increments and decrements of cash are more nearly syno in the ordinary, sense?for for utility and disutility, nyms unexpanded the and unhappiness. In deep ones, where and pain, happiness pleasure are is at stake than material amounts much more of money great, gain: a word, in Bali a pro esteem, honor, dignity, respect?in namely, though status.20 It is at stake symbolically, for (a few cases foundly freighted word, of ruined addict gamblers aside ) no one's status is actually altered by the outcome it is of a cockfight; affirmed or in only, and that momentarily, But for the Balinese, for whom is more pleasurable than an sulted. nothing or more one delivered than received? affront obliquely obliquely painful are when mutual undeceived surfaces, acquaintances, by particularly appraisive drama is deep indeed. watching?such stress immediately, is not to say that the money does not This, I must or that the Balinese is no more concerned about losing five hundred matter, It is because than fifteen. Such a conclusion would be absurd. ringgits matter in this hardly unmaterialistic and matter does, money society, much that the more of it one risks the more of a lot of other things, very
such as one's pride, one's poise, one's dispassion, one's masculinity, one

In again very publicly only momentarily an owner as we and his collaborators, shall see, and, deep cockfights to a lesser but still quite real extent also their backers on the outside, put their status is. their money where It is in large part because the marginal of loss is so great disutility at the is to lay one's that to engage in such betting higher levels of betting and metaphorically, the medium of one's self, allusively public through seem to this might cock, on the line. And though to a Benthamite merely increase the irrationality of the enterprise that much further, to the Balinese it what increases is the meaningfulness of it all. And as ( to follow mainly on life is the major rather than Bentham Weber ) the imposition of meaning of human existence, end and primary condition that access of significance more costs involved.21 Actually, than compensates for the economic given in ma the even-money of the larger matches, important quality changes in them seem virtually terial fortune among those who regularly participate because matters more or less even out over the long run. It is, nonexistent, one finds the handful of more in the smaller, shallow actually, fights, where who are in it mainly for the involved?those pure, addict-type gamblers are af in social "real" changes money?that position, largely downward, are "true cock Men fected. of this sort, plungers, by dispraised highly as fools who do not understand what the sport is all about, vulga fighters" rians who miss the point of it all. They are, these addicts, regarded simply as fair game for the genuine enthusiasts, to take those who do understand, risks, again

also

but

as well.

THE BALINESE COCKFIGHT

17

a little money to do by luring that is easy enough away from, something the force of their greed, into irrational bets on mismatched them, through to ruin themselves in a remarkably cocks. Most of them do indeed manage short time, but there always seems to be one or two of them around, pawn in order to bet, at any particular ing their land and selling their clothes
time.22

This

graduated

correlation

inversely, "money gambling" Bettors themselves form a sociomoral hierarchy there are, around the very edges of the cock earlier, at most cockfights a sheer-chance games fight area, type gambling large number of mindless, con dice throw, coin-spin, (roulette, pea-under-the-shell) operated by cessionaires. other sorts and various women, adolescents, children, Only of people who do not (or not yet) poor, the fight cocks?the extremely the personally at these games, at, of socially despised, idiosyncratic?play men would be ashamed ante levels. to go any course, penny Cockfighting are those who, where near them. in above these people Slightly standing on the smaller matches though they do not themselves fight cocks, bet around the edges. Next, there are those who fight cocks in small, or oc but have not the status to join in the matches, casionally medium large ones, though they may bet from time to time on the side in those. And are those, the of the community, finally, there really substantial members the solid citizenry around whom local life revolves, who fight in the larger on them around the side. The in these element fights and bet focusing these men generally focused gatherings, and define the sport as dominate a Balinese male dominate and define the society. When talks, in that they almost venerative way, about "the true the bebatoh ( "bettor" ) cockfighter," or it is this sort of person, not those who djuru kurung ("cage keeper"), the mentality of the pea-and-shell into the quite different, game bring context of the a word the driven gambler inappropriate cockfight, (pot?t, which has the secondary meaning of thief or reprobate), and the wistful that they mean. For such a man, what is on in a hanger-on, really going is match rather closer to an affaire dhonneur with the something (though, Balinese talent for practical fantasy, the blood that is spilled is only figura than to the stupid, mechanical crank of a slot machine. tively human) What makes Balinese is thus not money in itself, but cockfighting deep causes to what, the more of it that is involved the more so, money happen: the migration of the Balinese status into the body of the cock hierarchy an of the ideal/demonic, fight. Psychologically representation Aesopian rather narcissistic, male it is an self, sociologically repre equally Aesopian sentation of the complex fields of tension set up by the controlled, muted, but for all that of those selves in the ceremonial, felt, interaction deeply context of life. The cocks may be surrogates for their owners' everyday animal mirrors of psychic form, but the is?or more personalities, cockfight

with

of "status gambling" ones shallower

with deeper fights and, is in fact quite general. in these terms. As noted

18 exactly, deliberately involved system of is made

CLIFFORD GEERTZ to be?a simulation of the social matrix, the

groups? crosscutting, overlapping, highly "castes"?in societies, villages, irrigation temple congregations, kingroups, its devotees to affirm it, defend which the necessity live.23 And as prestige, the in it (but not, given it, celebrate it, justify it, and just plain bask to seek it), is per character of Balinese stratification, strongly ascriptive so also?ambulant force in the society, penises, haps the central driving it of the cockfight. This blood sacrifices, and monetary aside?is exchanges amusement from and seeming sport is, to take another phrase apparent "a status bloodbath."24 Erving Goffman, to to make this clear, and at least to some degree The easiest way I is to invoke activities the village whose demonstrate it, cockfighting one in which which observed the closest?the the raid occurred and from data are taken. in the this one?Tihingan, all Balinese region villages, Klungkung a and of alliances of southeast Bali?is labyrinth organized, intricately are two sorts of corporate which But, unlike many, groups, oppositions. on concentrate stand out, and we may also status groups, particularly without undue distortion. them, in a part-for-whole way, is dominated First, the village partly endo by four large, patrilineal, are with one another and descent which gamous groups vying constantly form the major factions in the village. Sometimes they group two and two, un or rather the two ones versus the two smaller ones plus all the larger are also sometimes There affiliated people; they operate independently. the subfactions, and so on to subfactions within them, subfactions within And second, there is the village rather fine levels of distinction. itself, al round most entirely endogamous, is opposed to all the other villages which as in its cockfight circuit is the market about (which, region), explained, cer also forms alliances with certain of these neighbors but which against contexts. The exact in various supra-village tain others and social political in Bali, quite distinctive; situation but the general is thus, as everywhere of status rivalries between corporate pattern of a tiered hierarchy highly my statistical As but is various based groupings (and, thus, between the members of them) entirely general. and thesis that the cockfight, then, as support of the general Consider, a dramatization is fundamentally of status the deep cockfight, especially to avoid extended the following de concerns, facts, which ethnographic to be evi the concrete I will simply pronounce facts?though scription to bear and numbers that could be brought statements, dence-examples, in support of them is both extensive and unmistakable: of 1. A man virtually never bets against a cock owned by a member own to bet for it, the he will feel obliged his kingroup. Usually more so the closer the kin tie and the the fight. If he is deeper

corporate

THE BALINESE COCKFIGHT certain

19

in his mind that it will not win, he may just not bet at all, if it is only a second cousin's bird or if the fight is a particularly in shallow one. But as a rule he will feel he must support it and, of the the great majority does. Thus deep games, nearly always are expressing or so demonstratively people calling "five" "speckled" not their evaluation to their kinsman, their allegiance of his bird, or even their hopes of of probability their understanding theory,
unearned income.

is not involved is extended principle logically. If your kingroup an unallied one in the will support an allied you against kingroup same way, the very involved networks of al and so on through as I say, make up this, as any other, Balinese liances which, village. 3. So, too, for the village as a whole. If an outsider cock is fighting one. any cock from your village you will tend to support the local is a rarer circumstance what but occurs every now and then, a If, cock from outside your cockfight circuit is fighting one inside it you will also tend to support the "home bird." come from any distance 4. Cocks which are almost always favorites, for the theory is the man would not have dared to it if it bring was not a so the further he has come. His cock, the more good to support him, and when followers are, of course, obliged the more are held and so on) the (on holidays, grand-scale legal cockfights take what people of the village they regard to be the best cocks in the village, and go off to support them, al regardless of ownership, will almost certainly have to give odds on them and though they to make large bets to show that they are not a cheapskate village. such "away games," the tend to mend Actually, though infrequent, between members that the constantly ruptures occurring village "home games," where are village factions opposed rather than united, 2. This
exacerbate.

are 5. Almost all matches relevant. You seldom get two sociologically outsider cocks fighting, or two cocks with no group back particular or with is mutually in any unrelated group backing which ing, clear way. When you do get them, the game is very shallow, betting no one save the very slow, and the whole thing very dull, with immediate principals and an addict gambler or two at all interested. 6. By the same token, you rarely get two cocks from the same group, even more never from the same subfaction, and virtually rarely from the same sub-subfaction would be in most cases one (which extended members two in outside Similarly, family) fighting. village fights one another, even of the village will rarely fight against as bitter rivals, on their do so with enthusiasm they would individual level, people involved in an institutionalized

though, home grounds. 7. On the

20

CLIFFORD GEERTZ not speak or in which called puik, hostility they do relationship, to do with each other (the causes of this otherwise have anything are many: formal breaking of relations inheritance wife-capture, sometimes will bet very heavily, differences) arguments, political one another in what a frank and direct almost maniacally, is against attack on the very masculinity, the ultimate ground of his status, of the opponent. 8. The center bet coalition is, in all but the shallowest games, always made up by is "outside" is involved. What "outside money" the context, of course, but given it, no upon depends can in with is mixed outside money the main bet; if the principals not raise it, it is not made. The center bet, in deeper again especially is thus the most direct and open of social op games, expression is one of the reasons which both it and match making position, why are surrounded an air of unease, furtiveness, embarrassment, by such allies?no
and so on.

structural

rule about you may borrow for a bet money?that borrowing are but not in one?stems conscious of (and the Balinese quite are never at the economic this) from similar considerations: you can get quite debts, which mercy of your enemy that way. Gambling on a rather short-term basis, are to friends, never to large always enemies, structurally speaking. two cocks are 10. When irrelevant or neutral so far as you structurally as mentioned, are concerned never are to each ( though, they almost other ) you do not even ask a relative or a friend whom he is betting if you know how he is on, because betting and he knows you know, it will lead to strain. This rule is and you go the other way, explicit are taken and rigid; fairly elaborate, even rather artificial precautions it. At the very least you must pretend not to notice to avoid breaking what he is doing, and he what you are doing. is a special word for betting 11. There is also against the grain, which a bad thing the word for "pardon me" It is considered (mpura). to do, though if the center bet is small it is sometimes all right as as you do not do it too often. But the long larger the bet more the and the more frequently you do it, the "pardon me" tack to social disruption. will lead 9. The 12. In fact, the institutionalized relation, puik, is often formally hostility initiated ( though its causes always lie elsewhere ) by such a "pardon me" bet in a deep fight, putting the symbolic fat in the fire. Similarly, the end of such a and resumption of normal social in relationship tercourse is often but, again, not actually brought about ) ( signalized one or the other of the enemies the other's bird. by supporting in this extraordinarily 13. In sticky, cross-loyalty of which situations, a man is social system there are of course many, where complex

THE BALINESE COCKFIGHT

21

two more or less equally balanced caught between loyalties, he tends to to avoid having to wander off for a cup of coffee or something voters in a form of behavior reminiscent of that of American bet,
similar situations.25

in deep fights, are, especially of their group?kinship, village, always virtually leading or whatever. these those who bet on the side (including Further, as I have more established mem already remarked, the people ) are, bers of the is for those who solid citizens. Cockfighting village?the are involved as well, not for in the everyday of prestige politics and so forth. subordinates, youth, women, to is concerned, the explicitly attitude 15. So far as money expressed It is not, as I have said, of no ward it is that it is a secondary matter. are no income to lose several weeks' Balinese importance; happier look on the monetary than anyone else. But they mainly aspects as self-balancing, a matter of just moving money of the cockfight it among a around, circulating group of serious fairly well-defined The really important wins and losses are seen mostly cockfighters. in other terms, and the general attitude toward wagering is not any a of making of cleaning (addict gamblers up, again hope killing but that of the horseplayer's "Oh, God, please prayer: excepted), let me break even." In prestige terms, however, you do not want a momentary, sort of way, win to break even, but, in punctuate on all the time) is about fights against utterly. The talk (which goes a cock of So-and-So which your cock demolished, not such-and-such on how much you won, a fact even for bets, rarely re people, large the for any length of time, though remember member they will did in Pan Loh's finest cock for years. day they 16. You must bet on cocks of your own group aside from mere loyalty for if you do not people generally will considerations, say, "What! or Is he too proud for the likes of us? Does he have to go to Java Den Pasar [the capital town] to bet, he is such an important man?" to bet not Thus there is a general pressure only to show that you are but that you are not so important that you locally, important look down on everyone else as unfit even to be rivals. Similarly, home team people must bet against outside cocks or the outsiders serious charge?of will accuse it?a entry fees and just collecting as well not really as in interested being cockfighting, again being arrogant and insulting. 17. Finally, the Balinese are themselves peasants quite aware of all can and, at least to an this and do state most of it in ethnographer, the same terms as I have. cocks, almost approximately Fighting I have ever discussed the subject with has said, is every Balinese like playing with fire only not getting burned. You activate village 14. The people involved bet members

in the center

22

CLIFFORD GEERTZ and kingroup rivalries and hostilities, but in "play" form, coming of open and and entrancingly close to the expression dangerously direct and intergroup which, aggression interpersonal (something life ), in the normal course of ordinary almost never happens again, but not quite, because, after all, it is "only a cockfight."

of this sort could be advanced, but perhaps the gen More observations eral point is, if not made, at least well-delineated, and the whole argument thus far can be usefully summarized in a formal paradigm: THE MORE 1. Between 2. Between A MATCH near high IS . . . personal enemies)

status equals (and/or status individuals

THE DEEPER THE MATCH.


THE DEEPER 1. The THE MATCH . . . of cock and man (or: more prop the more the man will advance his cock). and the more they will

closer

the identification

the deeper the match erly, best, most closely-identified-with 2. The finer the cocks involved be matched. 3. The

exactly

that will be involved and the more greater the emotion in the match. the general absorbtion 4. The higher the individual bets center and outside, the shorter there the outside bet odds will tend to be, and the more betting will be over-all. 5. The less an "economic" and the more a "status" view of gaming will be involved, and the "solider" the citizens who will be
gaming.26

in a the fight, culminating, hold for the shallower arguments amusements. and dice-throwing sense, in the coin-spinning reversed-signs For deep fights there are no absolute limits, though there are of upper course tales of great ones, and there are a great many legend-like practical in classical times (for combats between lords and princes Duel-in-the-Sun an elite concern as a popular one), has always been as much cockfighting even aristocrats, could produce than anything far deeper today anyone, in Bali. anywhere Indeed, one of the great culture heroes of Bali is a prince, called after to be away for the sport, "The Cockfighter," who happened his passion a a very deep at the whole of his prince when neighboring cockfight with commoner sisters?were assassinated brothers, wives, by family?father, to dispatch the upstarts, usurpers. Thus regain the spared, he returned the Balinese throne, reconstitute tradition, and build its most power high Inverse

THE BALINESE COCKFIGHT ful, glorious, see Balinese hatred, virtue,


prince.27

23

else that the state. Along with prosperous everything their social order, abstract cocks?themselves, fighting of status also see the archetype demonic masculinity, power?they with real fire, the ksatria honor-mad the arrogant, resolute, player and in

Feathers,

Blood,

Crowds,

and Money

Auden says in his elegy of Yeats, "it ... a mouth." a way of happening, The cockfight sense, makes nothing happen. Men go too, in this colloquial on one another and humiliated allegorically humiliating being allegorically one another, in the experience after day, if they by day glorying quietly have triumphed, crushed only slightly more openly by it if they have not. But no one's status status ladder by really changes. You cannot ascend the it at all. ascend cannot, as an individual, you winning cockfights; really it that way.28 All you can do is enjoy and savor, or Nor can you descend suffer and withstand, the concocted sensation of drastic and momentary an aesthetic movement semblance of that ladder, a kind of behind along its actuality. the-mirror status jump which has the look of mobility without As any art form?for is what we are dealing with?the that, finally, renders ordinary, experience cockfight everyday by pre comprehensible conse senting it in terms of acts and objects which have had their practical removed and been reduced to the level quences (or, if you prefer, raised) can be more of sheer appearances, where their meaning articu powerfully lated and more exactly perceived. The is real" only to cockfight "really the cocks?it does not kill anyone, castrate anyone, reduce anyone to animal nor refashion relations the status, alter the hierarchical among people, it does not even redistribute income in any significant way. What hierarchy; it does is what, for other peoples with other temperaments and other con it catches up these themes? ventions, Lear and Crime and Punishment do; loss, beneficence, death, masculinity, chance?and, rage, pride, ordering them into an encompassing them in such a way as to structure, presents throw into relief a particular view of their essential nature. It puts a con struction on them, makes to appreciate them, to those historically positioned the construction, in an meaningful?visible, tangible, graspable?"real," sense. An a model, a ideational is the cockfight image, fiction, metaphor, a means of nor its function is neither to assuage social expression; passions to in its them way, it does a bit of both), heighten (though, play-with-fire of feathers, blood, crowds, and money, to them. but, in a medium display The question of how it is that we perceive in qualities things?paint we do not feel we can assert to ings, books, melodies, plays?that literally be there has come, in recent years, into the very center of aesthetic theory.29 Neither the sentiments of the artist, which remain his, nor those of the "Poetry makes in the survives nothing valley of happen," its saying

24

CLIFFORD GEERTZ

remain theirs, can account for the agitation of one painting audience, which or the serenity of another. We attribute grandeur, wit, despair, exuberance to to blocks of stone. of sounds; lightness, energy, violence, fluidity strings are said to have Novels eloquence, plays momentum, strength, buildings to say that the cock In this realm of eccentric ballets repose. predicates, cases at least, is in its does not seem at all "disquietful" fight, perfected as I have it somewhat denied unnatural, merely, consequence, just practical puzzling. out of a conjunction of three The disquietfulness arises, "somehow," its metaphoric attributes of the fight: its immediate dramatic content; shape; the fight is and its social context. A cultural figure against a social ground, a mock war of at once a convulsive surge of animal hatred, symbolical a formal simulation of status tensions, and its aesthetic selves, and power to force together these diverse realities. The rea derives from its capacity son it is is not that it has material effects (it has some, but disquietful are minor); to is that, joining the reason that it is disquietful they pride to imagina it brings selfhood to cocks, and cocks to destruction, selfhood, a dimension tive realization of Balinese experience normally well-obscured from view. The transfer of a sense of gravity into what is in itself a rather a commotion blank and unvarious of beating wings and throbbing spectacle, is effected it as expressive of something unsettling legs, by interpreting even more in the way its authors and audience what live, or, ominously,
they are.

a characteristic that does not As a dramatic shape, the fight displays seem so remarkable one realizes that it does not have to be there: a until unto itself, a par is a world structure.30 Each match atomistical radically there there is the betting, ticulate burst of form. There is the match making, there is the and utter defeat?and there is the result?utter triumph fight, is the hurried, loser is not consoled. embarrassed of money. The passing his to assimilate People drift away from him, look through him, leave him reset his face, and return, scarless and into nonbeing, descent momentary or events rehashed; once intact, to the fray. Nor are winners congratulated, no a match turns is ended the crowd's attention totally to the next, with no doubt the remains with back. A shadow of the experience looking even with some of the witnesses, of a deep fight, as it principals, perhaps remains with us when we leave the theater after seeing a powerful play soon fades to become a schematic at most but it quite well-performed; or an abstract not even shudder?and diffuse memory?a usually glow one it itself that. Any expressive form lives only in its own present?the some is severed into a string of flashes, creates. But, here, that present more aesthetic than others, but all of them disconnected, quanta. bright the cockfight says, it says in spurts. Whatever live in spurts.31 the Balinese But, as I have argued lengthily elsewhere, Their it, is less a flow, a directional life, as they arrange it and perceive

THE

BALINESE

COCKFIGHT

25

out of the past, toward the future than an through the present, an of meaning and vacuity, alternation of short pulsation arhythmic when is happening is, something (that periods "something" significant) short ones where and equally is?be (that is, nothing much) "nothing" tween what themselves call "full" and "empty" times, or, in another they to a burning down idiom, "junctures" and "holes." In focusing activity the is merely in the same way in which Balinese glass dot, cockfight being from the monadic encounters the of everyday life, through everything of gamelan music, tem to the visiting-day-of-the-gods clanging pointillism are. It is not an imitation of the of Balinese ple celebrations punctuateness social life, nor a of it, nor even an expression of it; it is an example depiction of it, carefully prepared.32 If one dimension of the its lack of temporal di structure, cockfight's it seem a makes of the general social life, rectionality, segment typical the other, its flat-out, head-to-head however, (or spur-to-spur) agressive it seem a contradiction, a reversal, even a subversion ness, makes of it. In the normal course of are to the the Balinese of obsessiveness things, point shy of open conflict. of indi cautious, subdued, controlled, masters Oblique, rection and dissimulation?what call alus, "polished," "smooth,"? they can turn away from, resist what they rarely face what they rarely they can evade. But here as wild and murderous, manic they portray themselves of instinctual of life as the Bali explosions cruelty. A powerful rendering nese most it (to do not want a deeply phrase Frye has used of adapt Gloucester's is set in the context of a as do in blinding) sample of it they fact have it.33 And, because the context if that the rendering, suggests less than a is nonetheless more than an idle straightforward description it is here that the of the fight, fancy, disquietfulness?the disquietfulness not (or, anyway, not its patrons, who seem in fact rather necessarily) to enjoy The slaughter in the cock thoroughly it?emerges. ring is not a of how are among men, is almost what depiction but, things literally of how, from a worse, are.34 particular angle, they imaginatively The is as we have seen, angle, of course, stratificatory. What, already the talks most is status about and what cockfight forcibly relationships, it says about them is that are matters of life and death. That prestige they is a serious business is apparent one looks in Bali? profoundly everywhere in the the the economy, the state. A peculiar fusion of village, family, title ranks and Hindu castes, the hierarchy of pride is the moral Polynesian of the society. But backbone only in the cockfight are the sentiments upon which that rests revealed in their natural colors. else hierarchy Enveloped in a haze of where a thick cloud of and ceremony, etiquette, euphemism are here in gesture and allusion, they expressed only the thinnest disguise a mask which of an animal mask, in fact demonstrates them far more than it conceals them. Jealousy is as much a part of Bali as effectively as charm; but without the cockfight the poise, envy as grace, brutality movement on-off

26 Balinese would have a much

CLIFFORD GEERTZ less certain understanding of them, which it so highly. semantic (when it works) by disarranging to certain ascribed properties conventionally to others, which are then seen actually ascribed

is, presumably, Any contexts

why they value form works expressive in s^ch a way that

are things unconventionally to possess them. To call the wind a cripple, as Stevens does, to fix tone and as timbre, does, or, closer to our case, to picture manipulate Schoenberg an art critic as a dissolute as bear, does, is to cross conceptual Hogarth are the established between wires; conjunctions objects and their qualities or cultural altered and phenomena?fall weather, melodic journalism shape, ?are in to other referents.35 Simi clothed which signifiers normally point to connect?and the collision of roosters with connect, and connect? larly, the devisiveness of status is to invite a transfer of perceptions from the former to the latter, a transfer which is at once a and a judg description ment. the transfer could, of course, as well go the other way; (Logically, are a more interested but, like most of the rest of us, the Balinese great deal men in than they are in cocks.) understanding understanding sets the What apart from the ordinary course of life, lifts it cockfight from the realm of everyday it with an aura affairs, and surrounds practical of enlarged is not, as functionalist have it, importance sociology would that it reinforces status discriminations is hardly reinforcement (such in a society where necessary every act proclaims them), but that it pro a metasocial vides the whole matter of assorting human upon commentary into fixed hierarchical ranks and then organizing the major part of beings existence collective that assortment. to around Its function, if you want it is a Balinese call it that, is interpretive: of Balinese experience; reading a story about themselves. they tell themselves

Saying Something of Something


re this way is to engage in a bit of metaphorical put the matter forms from an of one's own, for it shifts the analysis of cultural focusing an a symp in to endeavor general parallel organism, dissecting diagnosing a code, or in a dominant tom, deciphering analogies system?the ordering a one in with penetrating contemporary general parallel anthropology?to or text. If one takes the other collectively sustained any literary cockfight, as a means of "saying something of something" structure, (to symbolic invoke a famous Aristotelian then one is faced with a problem not in tag), social mechanics but For the anthropologist, social semantics.36 whose or concern is with not with promoting formulating sociological principles, the question is, what does one learn about such cockfights, appreciating of texts? from examining culture as an assemblage principles Such an extension and of the notion of a text beyond written material, even not, of course, all that novel. verbal, is, though metaphorical, beyond To

THE

BALINESE

COCKFIGHT

27

naturae tradition of the middle The interpretatio ages, which, culminating in Spinoza, to read nature as Scripture, the Nietszchean effort attempted one to treat value systems as on the will to power (or the Marxian glosses to treat them as on property and the Freudian relations), replace glosses ment of the enigmatic text of the manifest dream with the plain one of the if not ones.87 But the recommendable latent, all offer precedents, equally idea remains theoretically and the more profound corollary, undeveloped; so far as is concerned, that cultural forms can be treated as anthropology works built out of social materials, has yet to be texts, as imaginative to treat the as a text is to out a cockfight bring feature of it (in my opinion, as a the central feature of it) that treating it rite or a pastime, two most obvious alternatives, would the tend to obscure: its use of emotion for cognitive ends. What the cockfight says it says in a of sentiment?the thrill of risk, the vocabulary despair of loss, the pleasure it says is not of triumph. Yet what that risk is exciting, loss depress merely or banal of affect, but that it is of ing, triumph gratifying, tautologies these emotions, thus exampled, that society is built and individuals put and participating in them is, for the Balinese, together. Attending cockfights a kind of sentimental education. What he learns there is what his culture's ethos and his private ( or, anyway, certain aspects of them ) look sensibility like when out in a collective text; that the two are near spelled externally alike to be articulated in the a enough symbolics of single such text; and? the text in which the this revelation is accomplished disquieting part?that consists of a chicken another mindlessly to bits. hacking the proverb has it, loves its own form of violence. The Every people, is the Balinese reflection on theirs: on its look, its uses, its force, cockfight its fascination. on almost every level of Balinese it Drawing experience,
brings together themes?animal savagery, male narcissism, opponent

systematically exploited.38 In the case at hand,

main blood sacrifice?whose excitement, gambling, rivalry, connection is their involvement with rage and the fear of rage, and, binding them into a set of rules which at once contains them and allows them structure in which, over and over builds a symbolic the reality play, again, of their inner affiliation can be felt. If, to quote intelligibly Frye Northrop to learn what a man feels like after he has again, we go to see Macbeth a and lost his soul, Balinese to find out gained kingdom go to cockfights a man, what a almost aloof, self-absorbed, composed, usually obsessively kind of moral autocosm, feels like when, tormented, attacked, challenged, in result to the extremes of fury, he has insulted, and driven totally tri or been as it takes us umphed brought totally low. The whole passage, back to Aristotle to the Poetics rather than the Hermeneutics), is (though worth quotation: But the poet
statements at

status

mass

[as opposed
all, certainly

to the historian],
no particular or

Aristotle
specific

says, never makes


ones. The poet's job

any real
is not to

28 tell you what happened,


thing Aristotle a kingdom Dickens, of that calls always universal does

CLIFFORD

GEERTZ

but what happens:


take event. place. You gives wouldn't He

not what did take place, but the kind


you go the typical, to Macbeth a a man recurring, to learn or what about the

history of Scotland?you
and you don't lost his feel

go to it to learn what
soul. that When there must you meet have

a man
such

feels like after he's gained


character Dickens as Micawber knew who was in

been

in almost everybody you exactly like this: you feel that there's a bit of Micawber know, including yourself. Our impressions of human life are picked up one by one, and remain for most of us loose and disorganized. But we constantly find things
in literature event.39 that

impressions,
human

and this is part of what

suddenly

co-ordinate

and

Aristotle means

bring

into

focus

great

many

such

or universal by the typical

of bringing of assorted of everyday life to experiences set aside from that life as a cockfight, "only game" and to it as "more than a reconnected and so creates game," accomplishes, or universal, than better a could be called what, typical paradigmatic one that tells us less what human event?that than the kind is, happens of thing that would if, as is not the case, life were art and could happen be as and David Copperfield freely shaped by styles of feeling as Macbeth focus that the
are.

It is this kind

so far without the enables reenacted, end, the cockfight enables us, to see a dimension of as, read and reread, Macbeth Balinese, his own subjectivity. As he watches after fight, with the active watch fight an owner and a bettor interest as a has no more ( for cockfighting ing of or than croquet he grows familiar pure spectator sport dog racing do), as the attentive it has to say to him, much it and what with listener to or the absorbed more viewer of still lifes grows string quartets slowly familiar with them in a way which to himself.40 his subjectivity opens another of those paradoxes, feel Yet, because?in along with painted and unconsequenced haunt aesthetics?that acts, which ings subjectivity does not properly exist until it is thus organized, art forms generate and the very subjectivity to display. Quartets, only regenerate they pretend are not still lifes, and cockfights sensi reflections of a preexisting merely are in the creation and agents bility analogically represented; they positive of such a maintenance as a pack of Micaw If we see ourselves sensibility. we too much Dickens see ourselves bers it is from as un (if reading it is from illusioned too little); and similarly for Balinese, realists, reading It is in such a way, cocks, and cockfights. coloring experience with the light cast it in, rather than material effects they through whatever they may have, that the arts play their role, as arts, in social life.41 In the forms and discovers his tempera then, the Balinese cockfight, ment at the same time. Or, more and his society's he temper exactly, a forms and discovers face of them. Not only are there a great particular texts on status commentaries and many other cultural providing hierarchy in Bali, but there are a great many sectors of other critical self-regard Enacted and

THE

BALINESE

COCKFIGHT

29

Balinese
commentary.

life besides
The

the stratificatory
ceremony consecrating

and

the agonistic
a Brahmana

that receive
priest, a matter

such
of

the and vacant concentration control, postural upon immobility, a of being, displays different, but to the Balinese depths equally radically tran of social hierarchy?its reach toward the numinous real, property Set not in the matrix of the kinetic scendent. of animals, but emotionality in that of the static tran it expresses of divine mentality, passionlessness not The mass festivals at the village which mo quility disquiet. temples, bilize the whole in elaborate local of visiting hostings gods? population breath songs, mates the spiritual unity gifts?assert a mood and project of against inequality trust.42 The cockfight is not the master to Balinese life, any key is to Spanish. What it says about that life is not bullfighting nor even cultural unchallenged by what other equally eloquent in this than say about it. But there is nothing more surprising that Racine and Moli?re were contemporaries, or that the same dances, compliments, their status
arrange chrysanthemums cast swords.43

of

amity more

village and than

unqualified statements in the fact people who

is an ensemble of texts, themselves ensembles, strains to read over the shoulders which the anthropologist of those to are enormous whom in such an difficulties they properly belong. There a Freudian to make and some enterprise, methodological quake, pitfalls as well. Nor is it the moral that symbolic forms can perplexities only way be so does handled. Functionalism lives, and sociologically psychologism. But to regard such forms as of something," and saying "saying something it to somebody, is at least to open up the of an analysis which possibility attends to their substance rather than to reductive to formulas professing The culture
account for them.

of a people

As
in

in more

familiar
repertoire

exercises
of forms

in close
and end

reading,
up

one

can
else.

start anywhere
One can stay,

a culture's

anywhere

a more or less bounded form and circle here, within single, can move it. One within between forms in search of broader steadily unities or can even compare forms from different informing contrasts. One to define cultures their character in reciprocal the relief. But whatever one level at which and however the guiding principle operates, intricately, is the same: societies, like lives, contain One their own interpretations. has only to learn how to gain access to them.

as I have

References 1. Bateson Gregory (New York: New Jane 85-110. Belo, "The and Margaret York Academy Balinese Character: Mead, of Sciences, 1942), p. 68. in Jane Belo, ed., A Photographic Analysis

2.

Balinese

Temper,"

Traditional

Balinese

Culture

(New York: Columbia University

Press, 1970; originally published

in 1935), pp.

30
3. The acter, 4. best pp. discussion 24-25, 140), of

CLIFFORD GEERTZ
Mead's (Balinese Char

is again Bateson and cockfighting but it, too, is general and abbreviated.

a single The is unusual in within Balinese culture Ibid., pp. 25-26. cockfight being sex sex is from which the other Sexual and expressly excluded. activity public totally is formal differentiation in Bali and most down activities, culturally extremely played com and on involve the participation of men and women informal, ground, equal as linked to From to economics, to dress, to kinship, monly couples. religion, politics, a fact both is a rather Bali "uni-sex" its customs its symbolism and society, clearly in contexts Even women do where express. certain activities?their painting, agricultural a mere is more matter than of fact case, tern, ?do the not cockfight, even watch not in fact absence, play which much of a role?music, in any relative is only this general To pat women least Balinese

enforced. socially of, by, and for men (women?at entirely ), is the most striking exception. (London, use. has and

5. Christiaan has

The Lay of the Jaya Prana Hooykaas, the reluctant (no. 17) with bridegroom a Balinese Uriah to the lord who myth, responds six hundred servant King, my Lord girls: "Godly are not yet in my mind;/like leave to go/such things a stanza I am on my mettle/I see V. index a a E. am alone/as Korn, Het toh. to the effect that the yet the flame has van

1958),

Jaya offered

p. 39. The the subject Prana, him the loveliest give beg you, cock encaged/indeed

lay of of me

Master/I

a fighting not been fanned." Bali, 2d ed.

6.

For Naeff,

these, 1932),

Adatrecht

('S-Gravenhage:

G.

under legend

7. There to the against sionate

is indeed action of a Balinese

cockfighting Noord-Hollandsche, 8. An pig incestuous trough to Twins of and

himself to protect Javanese religious powerful a pas culture hero castes ) who was of two Ksatria ( the ancestor See Christiaan Tirtha (Amsterdam: gambler. Hooykaas, Agama 1964), p. 184. wished over their necks yokes On this, see Jane Belo, Traditional Balinese Culture, and Mead, Balinese and crawl on 22. see the is at the it, to a Per the

separation figure who

of

Java

and

Bali

is due

is forced to wear couple pig eat with their mouths there. in Bali," in Belo, ed., Bateson

"Customs p. 49; p.

taining abhorence 9. Except below owner

animality

generally, small-bet

Character,

fights is done by ) spur affixing usually his own cock or not more handles whose affixers a

for unimportant,

of fight "importance," (on the question someone other than the owner. Whether or less depends relative to the someone other or cousin?or on how skilled he of importance than the owner,

a consideration When almost of his. will Also, ticipate 10. Erving dianapolis: 11. This spur always

is again importance are and cock handlers close almost relative?a extensions

They refer to the

quite are thus cock

brother

as "mine," triads owner-handler-affixer in several Goffman, and often

of his personality, and So-and-So, say "I" fought tend to be fairly fixed, though one. a given roles within exchange Two pp. Studies 9-10. in the Sociology

they a very friend intimate as the fact that all three so on, demonstrates. may par

fight. are

individuals

Encounters: 1961),

of

Interaction

(In

Bobbs-Merrill,

vein

or a means an indelible as in a birthmark which stain or mark, word, literally as well is used in a court case, in a stone, for a deposit for a pawn, for security in a loan, for a stand-in or ceremonial in a offered for someone else context, legal for its an earnest ownership husband in a business advanced deal, in a field to indicate for a sign placed is in dispute, and for the status of an unfaithful lover wife from whose must or surrender her to him. See Korn, Het Adatrecht gain satisfaction

her

THE BALINESE COCKFIGHT 31


van Bali: Theodoor Javaans-Nederlands Pigeaud, H. Oudjavaansche-N Juynboll, Handwoordenboek ederlandsche (Groningen: Woordenlijst (Lei

H. Wolters, 1938); den: Brill, 1923). 12. The The center bet must

be

advanced until other latter

the holds umpire the winner, avoiding, and loser would feel that

stakes among if the

in cash by the decision

both

parties is rendered

to the actual fight. prior them to and then awards

About and

10 per cent of the winner's of the fight sponsors. which

the intense both winner embarrassment things, to pay had off his defeat. personally following are subtracted share for the umpire's receipts

13. Actually, the typing of cocks, than twenty classes, certainly on. a series of independent,

is more elaborate collected (I have extremely on color alone, but is not based list), complete which beside color, dimensions, include, interacting, and temperament. The Balinese size, bone thickness, (But not pedigree. plumage, do not breed to any cocks so far as I have been to dis able extent, nor, significant ever done so. The is the basic cover, have asil, or jungle cock, which they fighting strain the sport is found, is native to southern and one can buy a Asia, everywhere in the chicken section of almost for anywhere market good example any Balinese from four or five is the one color element ) The up to fifty or more. ringgits merely as the used when the two cocks of different name, normally except type types?as on must the same color, in which case a be?have indica principle they secondary tion from one of the other v. "small etc. ) dimensions ( "large speckled" speckled," is added. are coordinated The with various ideas which types cosmological help so that, the of matches, for example, a small, shape you fight making headstrong, cock with brown-on-white the east feathers and thin legs from speckled flat-lying side of the ring on a certain Balinese and a large, cau calendar, day of the complex not a

all-black cock with tufted and feathers side on the north tious, stubby legs from another this is again in recorded and end day, and so on. All manuscripts palm-leaf do not all have and full identical (who lessly discussed by the Balinese systems), scale of cock classifications be extremely would componential-cum-symbolic analysis valuable both as an adjunct to the of the cockfight and in itself. But my description data on the subject, extensive and varied, do not seem to be complete and though to such an analysis here. For Balinese systematic enough attempt more see Belo, Balinese and ed., Traditional Culture, generally in Life, Studies and Ritual W. ed., Bali: (The Hague: Thought, for calendrical and Conduct ones, Clifford Geertz, Person, Time, in Cultural pp. 14. For 45-53. Analysis (New Haven: Southeast Asia Studies, Yale cosmological ideas J. L. Swellengrebel, van Hoeve, 1960); in Bali: An Essay University, 1966),

of it should be noted for that it is possible purposes ethnographic completeness, the man the favorite?the a bet make if in which he wins backing odds-giver?to or there his cock wins is a tie, a of the odds (I do not have slight shortening cases to be exact, but ties seem to occur once every fifteen or about enough twenty He his wish indicates to do this than rather matches). ("tie") by shouting sapih the but such bets are in fact cock-type, infrequent. the movement of the is one of the most intriguing, betting the hectic conditions most which under it occurs, given of the ob aspects fight. Motion picture plus multiple recording servers would be necessary to deal with it Even probably effectively. impressionisti to a lone in the middle of all cally?the only open approach ethnographer caught this?it is clear that certain, men in lead both the favorite is, (that determining the opening calls which initiate in and the process) making cock-type always precise dynamics of most complicated, difficult to study, and,

15. The

32
directing the movement of

CLIFFORD GEERTZ
the odds, these leaders" "opinion being to be discussed If below. bets, the more these men others ac be and

cockfighters-cum-solid-citizens complished to make if they their calls, others follow; gin to change begin a is of frustrated bettors there number ?though always large

so do

or for shorter crying more or less ceases. a detailed to the end?the under movement But odds longer a ever to get: it is not very awaits what, of the whole alas, process likely standing behavior. armed with precise observations of individual theorist decision only ringgits binomial and the variability, case is 1.38 below hundred possibility deviations, real are not departure standard in a from expectation fifty-fifty or (in a one direction deviations, for the below chance alone; forty five in one hundred. The that fact even

16. Assuming the sixty test) an

indicates, again, though merely departures at least to match cocks the tendency smaller evenly persists. reasonably fights not their of relative of the pressures toward It is a matter relaxation equalization, to be contests for high-bet The elimination. is, of propositions tendency coin-flip in the even course, are about. 17. The of reduction more striking, and suggests the Balinese know quite well what they

ringgits that these

in one eight case it is 1.65

standard

by or about extreme

on itself; one in smaller of course, feeds (which, fights wagering in is that there is less wagering find small fights uninteresting people in three mutually for large contrariwise and takes place ones) reinforcing them, as wander off to have is a of interest there First, ways. people simple withdrawal a cup of coffee or chat with a friend. do not mathematically the Balinese Second, as such. Thus, for a nine-to in terms of stated odds but bet directly reduce odds, one wagers one man wagers for five-to-four, nine the other eight; ringgits, eight bet, 6.3 four. For like the ringgit, the other therefore, unit, five, any given currency for as in a two-to-one as much bet is involved in a ten-to-nine times bet, money end. the as noted, in small toward settles and, longer fights betting example, or in are made to be onerather than tend the bets which three-, two-, Finally, ones. some or indicate of the very four(The fingers fights, five-finger largest in a Two at issue, not absolute the of the stated bet odds fingers figures. multiples on the underdog a man ten ringgits means to wager wants situation six-to-five in an eight-to-seven three situation, twelve, twenty-four, against twenty-one against and so on.) in the reasons are other economic of the cockfight, there aspects wagering connection the local market with close very system which, though are not without to its function, and to its motivation importance. events to which who wishes especially secondary its both

18. Besides

are Cockfights distant from quite sometimes come, anyone may open and are very over over local 90 per but well affairs, areas, 95, cent, probably nor even the administrative not by the village, is defined the locality concerned by the with week market Bali has a three-day but by the rural market district, system. never have themselves the markets rotation. familiar Though type "solar-system" it is the in a village affairs small morning been square, very highly developed, or twenty out?ten marks rather such rotation square miles, micro-region generally is Bali in contemporary (which going usually villages the from which to ten or eleven five thousand people) come. Most of the all of it, will core of any indeed audience, virtually cockfight of petty rural merchants are in fact and sponsored by small combines organized fights held by them and indeed under the general very by all Balinese, strongly premise, seven or eight to mean anywhere neighboring from that make chance are cockfights it circulate." gambling out for trade because get money good "they as well sorts of things various Stalls selling the edge ( see below ) are set up around games of as of the house, area assorted the they sheer so that

THE BALINESE COCKFIGHT 33


this of a small connection of fair. This with quality cockfighting in is very old, as, among sellers other their conjunction things, Prasasti N. V. Masa (Roelof Bali, 2 vols. Goris, 1954] ) Baru, inscriptions [Bandung: indicates. has followed the cock for centuries in rural Bali Trade and the sport has takes the and market one phrase note of the main is found to p. Press, even 106; 1964), agencies of the island's monetization. International Morality of Psychology, Library Yale (New Haven: of Law even on

markets

been 19. The 1931,

in the Hildreth see L. pp. L. 6ff.

Fuller,

translation, The

University 20. Of course,

as a is not to confined utility concept monetary normally in terms of here might be more argument put carefully a denial . . .) as for the Balinese, any people, utility (pleasure, happiness is identifiable with in any are wealth. But such merely terminological problems case to the essential is not roulette. the cockfight point: secondary losses and gains, that for Weber, The Sociology of

in Bentham, and my

21. Max

Beacon is There (Boston: Press, 1963). Religion as about with money, course, significance deepening in a working-class demon district of Boston description Whyte's boys strates: an role in the lives of Cornerville "Gambling important plays people. What ever the corner on the outcome. When bet game boys play, they nearly always is at stake, there a real contest. the game is not considered not This does nothing nothing specifically of Balinese, of corner mean that that the the honor

is financial I have element heard men say all-important. frequently was much of winning more at stake. The than the money important corner a man consider for money the real test of skill and, unless per boys playing forms well when is at stake, he is not considered a F. W. money good competitor." Street Corner 2d ed. of Chicago Press, Whyte, 1955), Society, (Chicago: University p. 140. 22. The that extremes to which this madness is conceived demonstrated on occasion to go?and folktale the fact

I Tuhung by so on a he A becomes that, leaving Kuning. trip, gambler deranged by his passion wife to take care of the prospective but to orders his pregnant if it is a newborn boy it as meat to his if it is a birth to a girl, feed cocks The mother gives fighting girl. but rather to the cocks than giving the child she gives them a large rat and conceals the girl with her own mother. returns a the husband When the cocks, crowing jingle, inform him of the deception he sets out to kill the child. A goddess and, furious, madness?is the Balinese descends the to food the from heaven and takes the owner's them, given, reunites him father who the girl up to the skies with cocks die from her. The is restored, the girl back the goddess sanity brings as "Geel Kom with his wife. is given The story Leeuwen 1956), rural Boomkamp, pp. 19-25. Sprookjes en Verholen

it is considered

in kommertje" Jacoba van Bali ('S-Gravenhage: 23. For a fuller description in Balinese

Hooykaas-van Van Hoeve, of Balinese

see Clifford social "Form structure, Geertz, American 61 Structure," (1959), Village Anthropologist, A Balinese in R. M. in In 94-108; "Tihingan, Village," Koentjaraningrat, Villages donesia Cornell it is a (Ithaca: Press, 1967), 210-243; and, pp. University though as Balinese bit off the norm De Dorpsrepubliek go, V. E. Korn, tnganan villages C. A. Mees, [Netherlands]: 1933). Pagringsingan (Santpoort and Variation Goffman, Encounters, P. a p. 78. N. McPhee, A

24. 25.

B. R. Berelson, in Formation

F. Lazersfeld, and W. Presidential Campaign

Voting: University

(Chicago:

of Opinion Study of Press, Chicago

1954).

34
26. As this is a formal of paradigm,

CLIFFORD GEERTZ
it Just is intended of to these the display considerations matter?one logical, leads I have not the causal, in to which, to attempted

structure what shed 27. order, some

cockfighting. and by what on in the

which

light

is another mechanisms, discussion. general

Leeuwen folk tales of Hooykaas-van ( "De Gast," Boomkamp's Sprookies van Bali, and a generous, a low caste Sudra, 172-180), pp. pious, man is also an who his accom carefree cock loses, fighter, despite accomplished after fight until he is not out of money to his last but down fight plishment, only World." not he says, "upon does however?"I cock. He the Unseen bet," despair, a His wife, he enjoys how much cock and hard-working woman, knowing good to go and bet. But, filled with mis him her last gives fighting, day" money "rainy to his run of ill luck, he leaves his own and bets merely due cock at home givings In another en Verholen or two and for a to a food stand repairs old beggar and generally odorous, unappetizing decrepit, to on a staff. The his last coins asks for food, and the hero old man leaning spends the some. The him then asks to pass the night with the hero, which old man buy the invites hero him to do. As in the house, is no food there however, gladly on the side. He soon loses a all but a coin snack, where he meets hero fact, may him tells he have his wife tells one to kill the last three cock cocks for dinner. in his When the old man hut and discovers this the hero of he has for own mountain says the hero to accompany in the his son

them

as a servant, The old man the the cocks. hero

and, after turns out does not cock. crows:

of the choice he is given up into Siva's presence, "I second fifteen The "I have beaten crows, opponents." the King." beaten third "I have have beaten The crows, twenty-five opponents." it to earth. is my the third, and returns with "That one, choice," says the hero, "I have at the he is asked for an entry fee and replies, When he arrives cockfight, never to win, he is let no money; I will As he is known cock has won." pay after my him to enslave him is there fighting, and hopes dislikes the king, who in. because the king to insure that this happens, he loses and cannot when pay off. In order the are the cocks the hero's. When cock matches his finest down, placed against hero's The in laughter. hoots led by the arrogant hero's flees, and the crowd, king, a spur stab in the throat. The him with then flies at the king himself, cock killing into a cock The is encircled house the king's men. hero flees. His changes by to and his wife the hero and carries bird of Indie the great mythic Garuda, legend, in the heavens. safety three promised The first Lifted When return king I have king. 28. Addict herited) addict sold are gamblers than merely really less declassed and circuit lands and worse (for their status is, as everyone The most high caste else's, in as such on see this, the people to earth. Later his intention they make their son, a to enter the hero released hermitage. enters by and they queen king and his wife and the hero Siva, also returns no more ( "I will cockfights. fight and his son becomes the hermitage

though collect

son He also asks for the hero's fighting. the son agrees, this is done. to be Siva and, thus, to live in a great palace to visit know this. In time, the hero decides

sky, and

announces bet

the Unseen

and won."

) He

impoverished

in my cockfight gambler off most of his considerable him as a fool

vately regarded treated he was sick), publicly the independence his rank. On Geertz, 29. For Person, four, Time,

everyone pri Though as him charitable, (some, more regarded due deference and politeness with the elaborate see status in Bali, and public of personal reputation and Conduct, pp. 28-35. variant, treatments, see Susanne Langer, Feeling and Form

disgraced. personally a very was actually his habit. to support

prominent satria who

somewhat

THE BALINESE COCKFIGHT 35


(New Harper Merrill, Primacy 190. 30. British York: York: Art and Its Objects Richard (New 1953); Scribners, Wollheim, Bobbs and Row, Nelson Goodman, 1968); of Art (Indianapolis: Languages The in his, Maurice "The and the Mind," 1968); Merleau-Ponty, Eye 159 Northwestern Press, (Evanston: 1964), pp. of Perception University

seem lacked to have indeed there in 1840) (the sport was banned cockfights a British to have of shapes. Most different therefore, generated, quite family were a into two in which number of cocks were "mains," fights aligned preagreed on the in teams both Score was and and fought took place serially. kept wagering were as a whole. matches and on the main dividual There also "battle Royales," it, and a let in in which of cocks were and on the Continent, England large number inWales, at once with the so at the end the victor. And the one left standing an elimination the lines of a "Welsh main" called followed pattern, along present-day tennis winners As a genre, to the next round. the cock tournament, proceeding loose has perhaps without less any. compositional On cockfighting Fitz-Barnard, flexibility more say, Latin comedy, see Arch Ruport, generally, than, (London: but The it is not Art of

both

fight

entirely (1957);

Cockfighting
and

(New York: Devin-Adair,


Lawrence

1949); G. R. Scott, History of Cockfighting


Fighting Sports Odhams Press,

1921).
31. to not and Conduct, I am, however, the first person Time, Person, esp. pp. 42ff. it: see G. Bateson, have and "An of a Steady the Value State," "Bali, System argued in Belo, Old Temple and a New Myth," Balinese ed., Traditional Culture, pp. 384

402 and 111-136.


32. For the necessity and of "exem among "representation," distinguishing "description," as to all of them) of "imitation" (and the irrelevance see Goodman, 45-91, Art, 6-10, pp. of Languages

plification," modes of 225-241. 33.

"expression" reference, symbolic

The Frye, Northrop Press, 1964), p. 99. There are two other

Educated

Imagination

(Bloomington:

University

of

Indiana

34.

connected with which, punctuate on the other, the reinforce aggressiveness is at once the cockfight continuous with social life and a direct ordinary of it: what call ram?, and what Ram? means the Balinese negation they call paling. mar and active, state: social crowded and is a highly after crowded, noisy, sought a are all ram?, streets as, of course, kets, mass festivals, is, in the extreme, busy is is what Ram? in the "full" times (its opposite, cockfight. "quiet," happens sepi, in the what is social vertigo, the dizzy, disoriented, ones). happens "empty" Paling one gets when in the coordinates around one's of social lost, turned feeling place is not clear, and it is a disfavored, space anxiety-producing tremendously immensely state. Balinese the exact maintenance to know orientation of spatial ("not regard and disvalues temporality sense that on the one hand and unbridled where as north is" is to be fundamental status relationships, and so forth, decorum, crazy ), balance, and confusion life the sort of whirling (krama) paling, as its cocks and contradic enemy scrambling profoundest exemplify see Bateson and Mead, Balinese Character, ibid., pp. 3, 64; on paling, Balinese Culture, ed., Traditional pp. 90ff. to ordered is to his "The Motive for Metaphor," dead./The meaning"); (Opus 16), Pieces like ("You moves wind the and it under like a

Balinese

values

of position the tion. On ram?, p. 35. The the 11, and Belo, Stevens trees in

reference

autumn,/Because the leaves/And among cripple is to the third of his reference

everything repeats Five Orchestral words

is half

without

Schoenberg is borrowed

36
from H. H.

CLIFFORD GEERTZ

" in Susanne "The 'Tonal of ed., Langer, Drager, Body,' Concept on An Press, (New York: Oxford 1961), Reflections p. 174. On Hogarth, University E. H. matrix and on this whole called matching"?see problem?there "multiple Gombrich, "The Use of Art for Arts and the Visual chology term for this The more usual and good technical Cornell and W. discussions University Percy, in James Hogg, of Symbols," the Study (Baltimore: Brooks, 1969), pp. Penguin sort of semantic is "metaphorical alchemy it can be found in M. Black, Models 1962), 25ff; Goodman, pp. as Mistake," Sewanee ed., Psy 149-170.

of Press,

(Ithaca: 44ff; pp. 78-99. 36. The

"Metaphor

transfer," and Metaphors as Art, Language 66 Review, (1958),

On of the Organon, For a discus book tag is from the second Interpretation. . . . from the of it, and for the whole of text "the notion for freeing argument see or a notion of scripture and constructing, hermeneutics, thus, writing," general Paul Ricoeur, and Philosophy Haven: Yale University Freud 1970), Press, (New sion pp. 20ff.

37. 38.

Ibid. L?vi-Strauss's an apparent seem an it is But "structuralism" exception. only might as texts totem than one, for, rather rites, marriage rules, or whatever taking myths, not as to interpret, is very much to solve, which L?vi-Strauss them takes ciphers in terms of how not forms the same He seek to understand does symbolic thing. in concrete situations to organize function emotions, (meanings, perceptions they in terms of their he seeks to understand them entirely internal attitudes); concepts, ind?pendent this of Cerebral de tout sujet, approach?that On Savage: contexte. tout et de toute objet, indefensible?see and suggestive 48 of L?vi-Strauss," the Work Encounter, de is For my Clifford (1967),

structure, own view Geertz, 25-32. 39. 40. Frye, The

"The

The use

Educated of the, so

Imagination, Europeans, more forth?is to

pp.

63-64. visual idiom

for perception?"see," for the fact that, here, misleading usually as the progress Balinese of the fight as much follow earlier, (perhaps, more as blurs are to see except of motion, cocks rather hard ) with actually fighting as with in gestural their bodies trunks their their and heads, limbs, eyes, moving "natural" "watches," as mentioned and than of the cocks' is kinesthetic definition means maneuvers, rather than visual. that much If ever of there the was individual's an example of an attitude" (The experience of Kenneth of

mimicry the fight Burke's

rev. Form, of Literary is it. On the enormous Mean, general, 41. All

act as "the dancing of a symbolic Philosophy the cockfight ed. [New York: Books, 1957], p. 9) Vintage and in Balinese role of kinesthetic life, Bateson perception in on the active nature of aesthetic Balinese Character, perception pp. 84-88; 241-244. Goodman, of Art, pp. Language of the occidental as in the are great with the earlier same breath the oriental efforts of disturbed lowly will doubtless to of disturb speak of

certain

this coupling sorts of and

aestheticians totemism

Christianity as But ontological any

anthropologists sorts certain in the is but social to the

ligion, judgmental the attempt case,

anthropological law, religion, certain regard threat to the at his Cambridge

(or to deprovincialize the to conspiracy deprovincialize this rationality?and though works of art as some for which that

questions ones are

(or should should be)

bracketed be) in bracketed concept all important is a threat of art

sociology of sociology part of the

theologians. of re art. general In

concepts?marriage, which theories aesthetic it is no analysis, been reprimanded

conviction, tripos,

the reach beyond Graves Robert poems are better

of sociological to have claims than others.

THE BALINESE COCKFIGHT 37


42. For the consecration ed., ceremony, Bali, pp. "The see V. 131-154; Religious E. in of the Priest," "The Consecration Korn, com for (somewhat village exaggerated) Character of the Balinese ibid., Village,"

Swellengrebel, Roelof munion, pp. 79-100. 43. That and what the

Goris,

the disquiet reason without

is not has to say about Bali without perception cockfight altogether it expresses life is not wholly about the general of Balinese pattern in two weeks is attested of December 1965, by the fact that during in between the unsuccessful the upheavals coup forty and eighty following Djakarta, were two million) of about Balinese thousand killed, (in a population by largely one another?the worst in the country. Indonesian outburst ( John Hughes, Upheaval [New York: casual extreme.) say, on the have could been predicted by the cockfight, in the place version real people of enlarged of it with nonsense. to say that if one It is looks at Bali merely its its its sculpture, and of its dances, shadowplays, themselves do?also the medium of its cock through occurred As more precisely seems, than as one they if no most less appalling, has real Gloucester deeply do less like a discovered, it. not want pp. not 173-183. the most Hughes's figures This are, is not of to course, of rather course,

1967], McKay, are but estimates, they were caused that the killings some sort of it, or were basis is of which of the cocks?all not

the medium just through but?as the Balinese girls, the fact that the massacre fight, contradiction, sometimes to the people laws get

of nature. life

actually