Note Taking on Balinese Cockfight. Essay Sample.

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Boston College
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The Balinese Cockfight is a classic article that was written in 1972 by Clifford Geertz. Cockfight is illegal but the game is being played by many people, with the cocks symbolizing the status of the participants.

There are several observations that one can make and cultural practices that one can learn from the reading of the book.


According to the reading, it is evident that Americans do not hold monopoly on popular culture. Gambling forms and plays an integral role in the Balinese cockfight but what the fight itself is more fundamental due to the beliefs attached to it.

Despite being illegal, cockfighting is a widespread and highly popular phenomenon in Bali, at least at the time. It is quite paradoxical that the Balinese people do not like animals, particularly the expression of animal-like behavior but their love for cocks is amazing. A Balinese man when identifying himself with a cock, he does not only identify his ideal self but also what he fears and hates. The ambivalence being is fascinated by the powers of the darkness.

According to the Balinese, the fight is sacred and its importance overrides money. It represents prestige ns status.

The culture of Balinese people

The story explains to the audience and anthropologist the culture of the Balinese as depicted in the fight. A precise definition of ritual is explained in the text as understood by the members of the society who are so obsessed with cockfight. They explain the behaviors and beliefs attached to it. Cockfighting to the Balinese entails fundamental central values such as respect, dignity and honor. The activity is a representation of an embodiment of a true meaning of being a Balinese. According to the author of the text, the pay is a deadly struggle of life since majority of the participants are not rich yet they spend a lot of money in betting for the outcome of the duel. The most surprising part of the story is that the Balinese do not bet on cocks that represent their reference groups. The key players of the game are dominant members of the society and the fight simulates the social structure of kinship and social groups. The fight between the cocks intensifies as the statues of the participants increases along the economic structure of the society. Prominent members of the society generate a heated fight that brings so many people together. The fight symbolizes a manufactured representation of something very clear in the Balinese social life. It indirectly relays aggression and fierce rivalry in an indirect symbolic sphere of engagement. The fight represents and forms the social and cultural structure of the people of Balinese which is showcased through the duel. Grooming of the cocks as described in the text goes beyond eroticism. However, it creates an impression of fetishism towards these animals. Cock is precious and mighty to the people of Balinese. Since the story is untranslatable and inconceivable to the western readers, the author provides technical details of how the game is prepared, the hierarchy of the gamblers and other subtleties of the fighting lore that create images of a refined and thorough mastery of the western royal jewelers. In conclusion, Geertz states that cockfight is the societys way of speaking to itself about itself.

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