The competent body for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage present in France is the Centre français du patrimoine culturel immatériel (CFPCI, French Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage), a branch of the non-governmental organization Maison des cultures du Monde (MCM, World Culture Institute). The CFPCI works to enrich the knowledge of intangible cultural heritage in France, its dissemination and promotion, and the organization and animation of networks active in this field (e.g. by organizing the first meeting of representatives of elements inscribed on the lists in France, and by gathering information for periodic reports for UNESCO). It engages in scientific research and collective reflection initiatives (seminars) and should soon benefit from a series of publications to disseminate the results of this work.
Within the Ministry of Culture and Communication, the Direction générale des patrimoines (General Directorate of Heritage), and, within the latter, the Département du pilotage de la recherche et de la politique scientifique (Department of Research Management and Science Policy) is responsible for the implementation by the French Government of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Department is responsible for the definition and execution of the General Directorate’s research policy. It is specifically in charge of conducting activities in the field of ethnological heritage and pilots the implementation of the 2003 Convention. This implementation is based on four pillars: conducting inventory operations at the national level; following up on and appraising nominations to UNESCO (as well as participating in relevant international forums); spreading information and awareness of the Convention with the groups, communities and non-governmental organizations involved, as well as with governments and universities or research centres concerned by the Convention; and developing anthropological research on intangible cultural heritage as an object of ethnological study. A decree of 5 March 2012 established, within the General Directorate, the Comité du patrimoine ethnologique et immatériel (Ethnological and Intangible Heritage Committee), which is currently being created and whose mission will be specifically focused on the implementation of the 2003 Convention.
Training in the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage is provided through several ethnology and anthropology courses in French universities, ‘grandes écoles’ and other leading higher education teaching and research establishments. A list of these courses is available at the following address: http://www.culturecommunication.gouv.fr/Disciplines-et-secteurs/Patrimoine-ethnologique/Formations/Formations-en-France. There are specialist intangible cultural heritage courses at two universities: the University of François Rabelais (Tours) and the University of Strasbourg, while the Jules Verne University in Picardie, the University of Rennes and the University of Paris I (Panthéon) all offer courses relevant to the safeguarding and/or presentation of intangible cultural heritage. In addition, training related to aspects of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage and the Convention are available at the Institut national du Patrimoine (INP, National Heritage Institute), the École nationale des chartes (ENC, National School of Palaeography and Archival Studies) and, since 2012, the École nationale d’Administration (ENA, National School of Administration). The INP also offers in-service training to Ministry officials.
No centralized documentation body has been established and intangible cultural heritage documentation is held by a number of cultural institutions (public and private) and non-governmental organizations, including the above-mentioned documentation centre of the MCM. In addition, the ‘ethnopôles’ (networks operating in the area of ethnology) also hold intangible cultural heritage documentation. Access is ensured through a digitization programme that was initiated by the Ministry in 2007; one of the two eligibility criteria for this programme is the development of online data without restriction, and dissemination to the widest possible audience.
From 2007 onward, undertaking the inventorying of intangible cultural heritage was a new departure for France after several partial actions had been taken in the field of ethnographic research and documentation. The General Directorate of Heritage initiated a directory that lists and links some 40 pre-existing specialized inventories. It may be consulted at http://www.culturecommunication.gouv.fr/Disciplines-et-secteurs/Patrimoine-culturel-immateriel/Inventaire-en-France/Le-repertoire-des-inventaires/Les-inventaires. The primary French inventory is the Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in France, which was established in 2008 in response to Article 12 of the Convention. It is a register of all the intangible cultural heritage in France that accords with the definition of Article 2, together with any associated tangible artefacts. Today, following the methodology described below, 150 elements are inscribed on the Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage and the initial objective is for two million entries, although this itself may evolve over time. It may be consulted at: http://www.culturecommunication.gouv.fr/Disciplines-et-secteurs/Patrimoine-culturel-immateriel/Inventaire-en-France/Inventaire.
Since this inventory is simply seen as a survey of the intangible cultural heritage present in France, the sole criteria used for inclusion are: compliance with the definition of Article 2; and community consent for inscription. The inventory does not directly take into account the viability of the elements, but the planned safeguarding measures are included in a separate section. It should also be noted that inclusion on the Inventory does not imply any legal status or protection nor does any safeguarding action plan have to be defined (apart from those elements that are subject to nomination files for the Representative List/Urgent Safeguarding List).
The Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in France requires the participation of bearers of intangible cultural heritage elements and the competence of people with ethnological expertise. The consent of the persons encountered in the inventory operations is required for entry onto this inventory. In addition, communities, groups and territorial administrations may make a direct request to the Direction générale des patrimoines (DGP) for the inscription of an element on the Inventory. There are a great number of non-governmental organizations offering recognized competence in the field of intangible cultural heritage which collaborate in the inventorying process. Such organizations include: the Occitan Institute; the Regional Centre of Ethnological and Technical Culture in Lower Normandy (CRéCET); the Centre for Traditional Music and Dance of Brittany (Dastum); and the MCM. In terms of accessibility, the Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage itself will be open for consultation in PDF files, illustrated with photographic documentation and video extracts.
As part of the implementation of a new law on heritage, a century after the Historic Monuments Act and a decade after the establishment of the Heritage Code, the Ministry of Culture is considering the inclusion of the notion of cultural heritage in French legislation and implementing the principles of the Convention into domestic law. The text of the Law is expected to be studied by the Chambers in 2014.
Measures to ensure the recognition of, respect for and enhancement of intangible cultural heritage are primarily the work of associations and territorial administrations. Since 2006, the Ministry has conducted over 100 implementation activities with associations, groups and research networks. It should be noted that the picture throughout France is an inconsistent one both regionally and sectorally, with some territorial administrations (Brittany and Limousin) and certain professional groups and associations (e.g. traditional music and dance, arts and crafts) having a strong involvement, but others less so. Even before the ratification by France (2006), the MCM played an important role in disseminating the concept of intangible cultural heritage, including through its annual Festival of the Imaginary. This role was largely affirmed following the ratification of the Convention. A number of other centres of traditional music and dance, as well as regional nature parks, regularly conduct activities to promote intangible cultural heritage.
The Ministry of Culture itself has focused its efforts on major networks concerned with intangible cultural heritage. Together with them, it has organized mostly public meetings to communicate the principles of the Convention, so that they can then be adapted in different areas. The Ministry is also active in publishing books, documentation and information on intangible cultural heritage, raising awareness and fostering audio-visual creativity in the domain of intangible cultural heritage. This is achieved either through support for documentary making or by awarding prizes for intangible cultural heritage-related works at film and documentary festivals.
Pre-existing forms of bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation have allowed for the rapid development of contacts at both the European and international levels, with the Convention serving as an excellent facilitator of such networking. These include cooperation in inventorying (particularly with the Canadian Province of Quebec), activities of international exchange undertaken with the MCM, and European seminars on technical issues relating to the implementation of European policies in the field of intangible cultural heritage organized by the CFPCI.
France is reporting on the following nine elements inscribed on the Representative List between 2008 and 2011: Processional giants and dragons in Belgium and France (2008); The scribing tradition in French timber framing (2009); Aubusson tapestry (2009); Maloya (2009); The craftsmanship of Alençon needle lace-making (2010); The gastronomic meal of the French (2010); Compagnonnage, a network for on-the-job transmission of knowledge and identities (2010); Falconry: a living human heritage (2010 and 2012) (multinational); and Equitation in the French tradition (2011). In general, inscription on the Representative List has fostered a real sense of pride, particularly since numerous actors have appeared on the ground, serving as a tool for the recognition, valuing, and safeguarding of a new genre. The number of people attending the Processional giants and dragons is now much greater than before, the scribing tradition is better known, the Maloya tradition has experienced a period of great development on the world stage and practitioners of equitation feel that their unusual approach to this sport is now legitimized. However, falconers remain concerned over the danger of shows of hunting birds that abuse the element for commercial purposes.
Since their inscription, efforts to promote and/or reinforce these elements are, as one would expect of such diverse examples of intangible cultural heritage, multiple and varied. Similarly, the institutional contexts for such efforts reveal a variety of relevant actors and stakeholders, often working in partnership. These include municipalities, practitioners and/or professional associations, Government ministries, trade unions, educational and research institutes, and museums and similar bodies. The participation of communities in such efforts is generally high, with a number of community and similar associations active on the ground, often collaborating with the actors listed above. The bearers and practitioners themselves played a direct role in the preparation of the reports on the various elements (as they did in the preparation of the nomination files).