The Inventory of Traditional Games in France

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  • Title: The Inventory of Traditional Games in France: Cultural Heritage, Sportification, and the Revitalization of Local Practices
  • Author(s): Laurent S. Fournier
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Sport & Society
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Sport and Society
  • Keywords: Traditional Games, Intangible Cultural Heritage, Sportification, Modernity, Anthropology
  • Volume: 13
  • Issue: 2
  • Date: November 29, 2022
  • ISSN: 2152-7857 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2152-7865 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Fournier, Laurent S.. 2022. "The Inventory of Traditional Games in France: Cultural Heritage, Sportification, and the Revitalization of Local Practices." The International Journal of Sport and Society 13 (2): 23-33. doi:10.18848/2152-7857/CGP/v13i02/23-33.
  • Extent: 11 pages

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This article focuses on the inventory of traditional games in France, carried out since 2011 at the request of the Ministry of Culture in the context of promoting the intangible cultural heritage in France. This inventory has made it possible to document several dozen regional games in this country, which gives an overview of their unsuspected richness in the context of globalization. Beyond this documentary dimension, the inventory has also had concrete effects concerning the revitalization of certain local practices and the participation of local actors. Based on the participatory dimension of the 2003 UNESCO Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, several associations in France have begun to imagine a future for regional traditional games. In this context, cultural heritage has detached itself from the traditionalist and backward-looking approaches that previously characterized it. Local actors interested in cultural heritage have proposed new forms of play, largely borrowing from the model of modern sports, to allow for better transmission of practices to younger generations. Thus, the notion of intangible cultural heritage has led to the revitalization of traditional games by hybridizing their traditional and more modern aspects. The ethnographic fieldwork carried out in France invites us to revisit, in depth, the historical theories of sportification. They show that the evolution of games into sports is not inevitable, and that certain games can be recreated today in the form of “invented traditions”. Thus, the internationalization of traditional games desired by UNESCO is also the pretext for a redefinition of local physical practices according to various modalities.