ERC Grant04.09.2017

2.5 million euros for uncovering the origins of play and games

Professor Véronique Dasen has been awarded the most prestigious European grant for a study dealing with play and games in classical antiquity. An exciting topic which could shed light on numerous current practices. The ERC Advanced grant of 2.5 million euros will enable her to pursue her research for 5 years. This grant also marks two firsts for the University of Fribourg since it is for research work in the humanities and conducted by a woman.

Today, games play an important role in our society. They exemplify a number of social as well as psychological and pedagogical or gender issues. But where do these present-day practices come from? Have they always been valued to the same extent? Understanding their origins as well as their social and religious dynamic could shed light on facets of our cultural history. This is the aim of the project “Locus Ludi: The Cultural Fabric of Play and Games in Classical Antiquity” which will be conducted over the next five years by Véronique Dasen, Professor of the Sciences of Classical Antiquity at the University of Fribourg. Research will commence this autumn.

Understanding play and its implications
The aim of the project is to study the social, identity and religious role of play and games in the Greco-Roman world by following three strands: firstly, a study of written sources involving the gathering and publishing of hitherto unpublished texts, by updating old translations, sources of misunderstanding, and by editing a comprehensive anthology of texts with a vocabulary of play and games which will be available on-line. Next, some archaeological work collecting material and objects used in games from various sources, analyzed in context. Finally, an iconographical strand with a study of depictions of play and games and their metaphorical dimension. This will necessitate mobilizing all the resources of a large international network and diving into the depths of the collections of numerous museums and libraries.

The project will be conducted in collaboration with Ulrich Schädler, Director of the Swiss Museum of Games and lecturer (Privat-docent) at the University of Fribourg.

These different approaches will allow her to not only understand game practices and their various aspects in antiquity, but will also cast into new relief our current approach to this question. On completion, all the material will be available to the general public – in particular to schools and museums – notably in the form of an eBook with interactive games.

  • The project’s website
  • The project will be inaugurated by a first international meeting held at the University of Fribourg on 26 and 27 October 2017
  • There will also be a scientific café on the topic of games and play on Wednesday 13 December at 6.00 pm in la salle du Nouveau Monde du bâtiment de l’Ancienne Gare [the Nouveau Monde hall  of the old Fribourg railway station]. This will give Véronique Dasen the opportunity to talk to members of the public as well as various specialists in the area of play and games.