Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight

Originally published in Daedalus 101 (1), 1972
  • Clifford Geertz


This reading alerts us that Americans hold no monopoly on popular culture. Geertz relates both the various events surrounding and the deeper cultural meaning of an example of popular culture, cockfighting on a South Pacific island. He contrasts his interpretation of engaging in “deep play” (extremely high stakes activities) with Jeremy Bentham’s famous earlier characterization of irrational behavior. For Geertz, cockfighting in Bali engages central cultural values such as honor, dignity, and respect. Thus, rather than seeing Balinese men betting unreasonable amounts of money on a mere game, Geertz portrays what appears as play to be a deadly serious struggle over relative status.


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Copyright information

© Lane Crothers and Charles Lockhart 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clifford Geertz

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