Deep plays: A comparative ethnography of gambling contests in two post-colonies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Clifford Geertz famously argued that careful ethnographic study of a society's games of chance can generate insight into that society's history, structure and culture. Adopting and extending the technique of the 'ethnographic revisit', the author compares his own ethnographic data on the organization of casino card games in contemporary South Africa to Geertz's study of the Balinese cockfight. Three differences are delineated regarding the position of gambling as an institutionalized practice within the larger social matrix; the organization of the individual games; and the subjectivities produced through participation in the contests. These differences, it is argued, derive from divergent trajectories of post-colonial 'governmentality' in Indonesia and South Africa. The Indonesian state continued a colonial-era ban on gambling. As a result, cockfighting remained embedded in local village life as a vehicle for expressing both traditional status honor and resistance to central authority. In contrast, the South African state reversed colonial prohibition by sanctioning corporate casinos. Social and political dimensions of gambling are here subsumed within an economic framework of action and understanding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-33
Number of pages29
JournalEthnography
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2008

Fingerprint

gambling
ethnography
organization
governmentality
ban
society
honor
Indonesia
subjectivity
village
participation
history
economics
Colonies
Ethnography
Gambling
Contests
Clifford Geertz
South Africa
Casino

Keywords

  • Casino
  • Cockfight
  • Comparative ethnography
  • Gambling
  • Geertz
  • Indonesia
  • Post-colonialism
  • Risk
  • South Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology

Cite this

Deep plays : A comparative ethnography of gambling contests in two post-colonies. / Sallaz, Jeffrey J.

In: Ethnography, Vol. 9, No. 1, 03.2008, p. 5-33.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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