'Sit anywhere you like, we're all friends together': reflections on bingo culture. GARP8

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Mann, Katherine (2003)
  • Publisher: Goldsmiths Anthropology Research Papers

This paper constitutes a response to stereotyped notions of life at the bingo hall, notions which have created barriers of derision, snobbery, patronising fondness, even taboo, between bingo as a socio-cultural fact and mainstream society. Research interviews and observation sessions were carried out in an attempt to question clichés on the basis of accounts of lived experience and personal reflection. The idea that the bingo hall represents, particularly for working-class women, a place of social focus, almost of social refuge, is challenged and assumptions about bingo's social side critically explored. Rather than upholding the notion that game players have autonomously restructured bingo culture to suit their needs and lifestyles, I argue that other forces, over which players have little or no control, have shaped social life at the bingo hall, namely notions of opportunity, possibility, and safety in a male-dominated, capitalist society. I therefore also discuss the presence of money at the bingo hall, and I speculate upon its impact on socialising there, as well as on the taboos surrounding gambling and competitiveness. The suggestion that bingo might not constitute an entirely positive and socially-affirming experience for some players is explored, and set against those cultural stereotypes which characterise the bingo hall as more a social centre than a place to win money.
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