Peace Review 32(4) pp 434-440
How can play, sport, and dialogue may be used as pathways to peace? In the pioneering classic of cultural history, Homo Ludens, the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga describes play as an informal voluntary activity according to guided rules accepted freely under limits of space and time. The purpose is to create an atmosphere of tension, joy, and consciousness that is different from ordinary life. This requires that daily concerns and disputes be suspended to make play possible.
This playful character of sport fosters opportunities for dialogue. Agreeing to play with others, including those from unfamiliar cultural backgrounds, under the same rules creates the possibility of recognizing one another as partners, at least in the specific circumstances. These range from spontaneous and informal play, such as in family gardens, in parks or beach recreation, through more organized but still recreational amateur sports such as community marathons and team sports, with the degree of organization and formality increasing to the point of professional sports that are recreational in the sense of being mass entertainments.