Cockfighting in Venezuela: Capitalist Paroxysm within a State Controlled Economy
Keywords:violence, capitalism, socialism, extreme behavior
In 2014 in Guasipati, an agricultural and cattle town in Southeastern Venezuela, I witnessed a group of men of all generations who staged themselves through the orgasmic rite of cockfights. In Geertz's famous ethnography of cockfighting in Bali, the ‘irrationality’ of betting appears at first as surprising. But cockfighting is a game that dramatizes status and tests group solidarity, it is a measure of moral import and of meaning. This photographic record of masculinities at play in cockfighting builds on Geertz’ interpretation. The images were taken in the gallera (cockpit) of Guasipati during a clandestine night. It is here that the participating men engage in a form of capitalist communication that directly questions the Bolivarian Revolution. Many are workers within socialist enterprises, and they tremendously enjoy this illegal and transgressive activity. Within this space, the patterns of exchange become competitive and inscribed in subterranean capitalist circuits, evoking a symbolism of masculine power disputes (who is a man and who not) vis-à-vis the prohibitions of socialism. It is here that illegal enrichment that serves as a source and mark of status within the state controlled economy is effectively played out. Behind the individual and collective euphoria seen in the photographs, there are even more euphoric social tensions of betting and status at work.
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