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Gambling Life

Gambling Life: Dealing in Contingency in a Greek City

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Gambling Life
    Book Description:

    The only ethnography devoted to the practice of gambling as its core subject, Gambling Life considers the stakes of social action in one community on the island of Crete._x000B_Backgammon cafes, card clubs, and hidden gambling rooms in the city of Chania provide the context for Thomas M. Malaby to examine the ways in which people confront uncertainty in their lives. He shows how the dynamics of gambling -- risk, fate, uncertainty, and luck -- are reflected in other aspects of gamblers lives from courtship and mortality to state bureaucracy and national identity._x000B_By moving beyond risk and fate as unexamined analytical categories, Malaby presents a new model for research concerning indeterminacy, seeing it as arising from stochastic, performative, and other sources. Gambling Life questions the longstanding valorization of order and pattern in the social sciences.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09179-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Introduction: Engaging Uncertainties
    (pp. 1-30)

    It was New Year’s Eve, 1995, and I was watching the aftermath of a poker game at a smallkafenio(coffeehouse) in Chania, Crete. It had been quiet there all evening, with only one continuous game of poker, and the owner was standing and railing against the lack of business. Nondas had purchased thekafeniofrom Petros, a friend of mine, the previous spring, and this was his first holiday season as owner.¹ The previous New Year’s Eve under Petros’s ownership the place had been nearly full (in fact, it had been full that entire week), with about ten or twelve...

  5. 1 Shifting Ground
    (pp. 31-52)

    And so is framed one of the central puzzles of gambling and sociability in Chania. Just as a player may state with pride how welcome he is at any number of gambling coffeehouses, so will another one deride his willingness to “root around” for the higher-stakes gambling on any given night, at the expense of any personal dignity. Unraveling the complex web of social ties and personal histories that characterize the community of gamblers in Chania and situating them in their imagined city landscape is a task never truly completed, but over the course of my time there certain major...

  6. 2 Things Not Being Equal
    (pp. 53-75)

    A discussion of the divisions within the imagined landscape of Chania leads naturally to a more focused discussion of how these and other ways of construing difference manifest themselves over the gaming table. The central issue here is that of inequality, a feature of social life most obviously displayed in Chania through two discourses of difference, class and gender. Although I have more extensively treated articulations of class difference by old town entrepreneurs as they draw on an imagined landscape of the city elsewhere (Malaby in press), here I take a brief space to discuss articulations of class difference as...

  7. 3 Poker and Positioning
    (pp. 76-92)

    Early in my research in Chania, I watched a poker game at Meltemi, the gambling coffeehouse introduced at the start of this book, while Petros was its owner. Playing that evening were Petros and several other regulars: Nondas (the later owner of the establishment), Mikhalis, and Stelios. The game lasted for almost five hours, and throughout the game Nondas had been losing and Stelios had been winning, and doing so soundly. There seemed to be no end to his production of flushes, straights, and even a few fours-of-a-kind. Stelios seemed not to react at all to his good fortune; he...

  8. 4 Playing the State’s Game
    (pp. 93-117)

    It was a few weeks before New Year’s Eve of 1994 at a bar in the newer part of town, and with a dice player named Stelios I was having the kind of conversation anthropologists favor: one-sided. Having just met him a few moments before, I was surprised at how quickly I was being led through Stelios’s vision of his life as a gambler. I found myself subject to an intense display of personality because Stelios had, to put it mildly, an abundance of confidence in his gambling abilities. He also had great faith that his insights in this area...

  9. 5 Collective Solitude
    (pp. 118-133)

    Stelios (whose reaction to the change in Greek tax law provides the vignette that begins chapter 4), told me this as we sat at the bar of a dice gambling location in the old city. He was a dice gambler, originally from Sfakia, but he had traveled extensively and spoke some English as a result of being in the United States for twelve years. Stelios had joined a conversation I was having with the owner of the place, Mikhalis, and after a set of regular interruptions from Stelios, or perhaps because of other business down the bar, Mikhalis moved on....

  10. 6 Confronting Consequences
    (pp. 134-148)

    “Tora!”(“Now!”) exclaimed my friend Nikos as the coffee began to froth and bubble, threatening to overflow the long-handled brass coffeepot. I stirred the coffee briskly as I removed it from the flame, trying to do everything just as I had seen Nikos do it many times. My next problem: the flame. It was produced by a small propane canister with a burner attached to the top; the heat from it struck my face as soon as I moved the pot away. Somehow Nikos always turned off the burner while simultaneously stirring the pot he held. How had he done...

    (pp. 149-152)
    (pp. 153-158)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 159-162)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 163-164)