Anthropology and Play: The Contours of Playful Experience
Thomas M. Malaby
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
December 12, 2008
In what follows I outline the tendencies of twentieth-century anthropological work on play and argue that anthropology, despite its ostensible neglect of the matter, nonetheless has much to offer the current aim of rethinking play. I begin by suggesting that, while the ingredients of a more useful conception of play as a disposition (as opposed to an activity) were always present, and even found expression on occasion, the field as a whole stressed only two viable possibilities: play as non-work, and play as representation. Departing from this pattern prepares us to recognize a better model for thinking about play, one that draws ultimately on the pragmatist philosophers' portrayal of the world as irreducibly contingent. On this view, play becomes an attitude characterized by a readiness to improvise in the face of an ever-changing world that admits of no transcendently ordered account.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 16
Keywords: play, games, anthropology, pragmatism, contingency
Date posted: December 15, 2008