"For years, anthropologists have been interested in jogo do bicho as a key Brazilian institution. We now have an English translation uniting Roberto DaMatta's theoretical acumen and knowledge of Brazil with Elena Soárez's field work. In Eagles, Donkeys, and Butterflies, they combine a stunningly effective analysis of the game in terms of rituals and symbols with an enlightening analysis of the structural and symbolic significance of the animals and the numbers associated with them. This is a welcome addition to the literature on the game's cultural meaning and its place in the context of Brazilian society." —Conrad P. Kottak, University of Michigan
"This book is fascinating and marked by a richness of detail that keeps a reader's attention. It constitutes an important contribution to the understanding of Brazilian and Latin American culture." —Thomas E. Skidmore, Brown University
Roberto DaMatta, one of Brazil's foremost anthropologists, and scriptwriter Elena Soárez approach the question of gambling in popular culture in general and its treatment in social anthropology in particular. They focus on the "animal game," a kind of popular Brazilian gambling entertainment or lottery in which locals bet on a list of twenty-five animals. The authors argue that the success of this game, which originated in 1882 with the founding of the first zoo in Rio de Janeiro, and the social release the game provides are significant aspects of Brazilian social history and identity. Within the animal game, players "totemize" and identify with various animals. DaMatta and Soárez use this identification as a lens through which to view present-day Brazilian society, the significance of gambling, and the role of animal images in Brazilian and American popular cultures.
Appearing for the first time in English, this well-written work moves smoothly between comprehensive analysis and field observations of specific behaviors and practices, such as the lucky tricks and devices invested with magical thinking by those who play the game.