Saripalli Ravikiran is a doctoral fellow under the supervision of Dr. Ajay Gudavarthy at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He has recently submitted his doctoral thesis on nonhuman animal sport spectacles and agrarian political economy. In this work, he explored the intersectionality of caste, class, gender, species, and religion. His areas of interest include modern Indian political thought, eco-ambedkarism, Dalit Bahujan environmental visions, spectacle sports, tantric religiosity, multispecies cultural politics/justice, decoloniality, posthumanism, new materialism, Dalit feminism, ecofeminism, intersectionality, and hermeneutics. E-mail: svrkiran1989@gmail.com


Cockfighting in India and Bali: A Critical Posthumanist and New Materialist Exploration of Cultural Spectacle

Abstract: With deep roots in India, cockfighting today centers around Makara Sankranti in January, in the coastal districts of Andra Pradesh. Traditional matches near village temples have sacred symbolism, with blood spillage seen as ensuring fertility and protection. However, under British rule, cockfighting shifted toward entertainment and gambling. Post-independence contests continued despite being illegal. Since India’s 1990s economic liberalization, the sport has become more commercialized and profit-driven, with betting amounts rising exponentially and breeding and training becoming more systematic. Yet, astrology continues to influence the choice of contestants. Despite being illegal, weak law enforcement enables the persistence of cockfighting, which still draws massive turnouts. Events revolve around kin/village rivalries and outcomes determine prestige. During COVID-19, old fertility beliefs resurfaced, underscoring cultural resilience. But tensions remain between the sacred aspects and the contemporary priorities of spectacle, gambling profits, and attending crowds. The evolution of this practice reveals both continuity and change in cultural significance. This paper attempts to understand such evolution by establishing a comparison with Geertz’s understanding of Balinese cockfighting. It also aims to examine the extent to which the cultural spectacle of cockfighting challenges dominant humanistic or anthropocentric ontologies, based on theories like critical posthumanism and new materialism.
Keywords: critical posthumanism, new materialism, cockfighting, neoliberalism, post-decentralization