Cultural Heritage and Associations in France: Reflections on a Ground-Breaking Investigation, Twenty Years On

Claire Bullen, Cyril Isnart, Hervé Glevarec, Guy Saez


This interview was carried out to mark the approaching twentieth anniversary of what has become a seminal text within French heritage studies: Le Patrimoine saisi par les associations (Heritage in the Hands of Associations). Ahead of its time, this work by the French sociologists Hervé Glevarec and Guy Saez shed light on a number of important yet little-studied dynamics relating to the interactions between the field of heritage and associations in France. Today many of the aspects they outlined (the role of the associative sector in expanding the notion of heritage in France; opening up of the category of heritage to include customs, rituals, know-how and memories; the interest in following the biographical trajectories of heritage actors) have become a common part of heritage making and a focus of heritage studies around the world. Somewhat surprisingly, there has been very little intellectual follow-up of Glevarec and Saez’ pioneering work. As well as detailing the social context that led to the study and underlining some of the key findings, in the interview Glévarec and Saez point to some significant evolutions in political, intellectual and moral paradigms affecting contemporary cultural heritage production. Accordingly, the interview demonstrates the historical value of ethnographic and sociological studies which, when compared with more recent research, can help chart the extent of transformations of a social field over time.


heritage associations; France; Hervé Glevarec; Guy Saez

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