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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Cockfighting in the American Midwest During the Mid-Twentieth Century: Women’s Participation in the Practice

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License

Clifford Geertz’s “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight” is one of the most recognized modern sources on cockfighting. Geertz’s use of thick description to analyze the motives behind the actions of Balinese cock fighters is an important methodological approach in understanding cock fighting around the world. Geertz’s essay, although crucial in its pioneering use of thick description, cannot be used as a universal source on cock fights. The primary reason for this is because Geertz’s essay focused on Balinese cock fighting which was as an exclusively male sphere of activity. Although cock fighting in Bali was an exclusively male practice, cock fighting in America, and specifically in the American Midwest, was an activity participated in by both men and women. Women were certainly not the majority of the participants at cock fights but enough of them were present to be included in the discussion of one of the practices that shaped rural America in the twentieth century.

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