The Year of the Golden Pig
Having looked at the wider context of public events and street festivals in the previous chapter, this chapter is going to explore one specific event, that of the Chinese New Year. In the introduction to the previous chapter I identified two possible ‘public discourses’ surrounding festivals and public events. The first, which I explored in more depth within that chapter, was the discourse of the City Council, what Baumann referred to as the ‘dominant discourse’ related to culture, community, ethnicity and religion (1996). The second relates back to my work in Handsworth and Highgate and consists of the discourses used by those who attend the event about religion and religious diversity. I suggested that the literature on festivals, carnivals and street parades tended to overlook both these discourses by focussing much more specifically on the participants themselves, what they were saying to themselves and what kinds of messages they wished to present to the wider public. Neither of these participant discourses concerns me within this analysis, although I will touch on both in what follows, as it is the question of ‘religious diversity within everyday discourses’ that is my primary interest. Overall, however, as we have seen from my survey of the various festivals in Birmingham in the previous chapter, overt discourses on religion and religious diversity among those who attend the festivals were rare. That does not mean, however, that religion was ignored entirely, and my study of the Chinese New Year aims to show how we may need to expand our understanding of ‘religion’, even when looking at local public discourses, if we are to get a full picture of the role of discourses on religion within, and around such events.