Anthropology and Play: The Contours of Playful Experience
Abstract

This essay traces twentieth-century work on play in anthropology, and shows that while the ingredients of a more useful conception of play as a disposition were always present, the field as a whole stressed only two viable possibilities: play as nonwork, and play as representation. The essay offers 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, playful experience becomes an attitude characterized by a readiness to improvise in the face of an ever-changing world, one that admits of no transcendently ordered account.


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