NCSR 2008 - Urban Diversity and Religious Traditions
13-15 August 2008, Åbo Akademi University

Public Display and Civic Identity: Managing Religious Messages in Urban Street Festivals

Martin D. Stringer, University of Birmingham

A city such as Birmingham in the UK has a series of festivals throughout the year that use public spaces to celebrate a cultural or religious date. These begin in January/February with the Chinese New Year and end in December with all the events surrounding Christmas. Some of these festivals are clearly of a religious nature (the Birthday of the Guru among Sikhs) others clearly have no explicit religious connection (Gay Pride). Others again (the majority) are ambiguous (Chinese New Year, St Patirck's Day etc.). As discourses of identity have moved from a primarily ethnic register to one focussed on religion I am interested in the presentation of religion in relation to these festivals by the participants, the city authorities that sponsor and publicise them, and by the crowds that gather to witness them. This paper will present some initial findings of this study.