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Play, leisure and anthropology
The concepts of play, leisure and
art overlap
Play and leisure lack
Play and leisure may include:
• Sports, hobbies: playing cards,
playing pool, gardening, recreational
travel, dancing, etc.
Play: is a cultural activity that is
framed or highlighted from
other activities of ordinary life.
--Separate from other activities
--With specific rules
--Element of tension and change
Sets an alternative reality
Is set apart from everyday life
Requires cooperation
Dissolves many boundaries
Communication about
Play: two kinds of
--sense of separation
--out of ordinary life
--(conscious of being conscious)
--aware of our actions
The Functions of Play
• Exercise
• Rehearsal for life
• Microcosm of culture
• Spiritual quest
What do we learn by studying play and
leisure activities?
Cultural relations
Intercultural relations
Social status
Individual and group goals
Cultural and social identity
Social patterns
Leisure and play: between
pleasure and pain
• Blood sports --boxing, extreme fights
• What is in it for the player? --Money?
• Why do spectators like to watch bloody
sports? --Cultural identity? --Personal
Leisure travel
• From core to peripheral nations
• Marketing of exotic others and exotic lands
• Selling fantasies, desires, pristine way of
life, “authentic cultures”
• Transformation of cultural forms influenced
by tourism
Change in expressive culture is
Influences go both ways
--globalization of mass media
--african music and art
Latin dance and Music
Asian performances
Cultural Syncretism:
when a cultural activity is influenced
by or appropriated into the cultural
fabric of another culture
Expressive culture comprises art, leisure
activities and play
Anthropologists look at expressive culture in
order to learn about social and cultural
Discussion question
Could you think of an example of play
that reinforces or is a microcosm of
cultural values in a region of Canada
or in another culture?