Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
St. Patrick's Day in Belfast: St. Patrick, dressed as a track coach, urges on the winners of last year's city marathon, running in a giant steampunk hamster wheel. Asylum seekers and refugee center volunteers follow close behind wearing paper mâché City Hall hats. The Chinese Welfare Association brings up the rear carrying a flowing sheet of blue linen under a multi-handler salmon puppet. In Belfast, a protracted history of conflict surrounding parades brings extra scrutiny down on celebrations of cultural and religious identity, which, in the post-Agreement era, have become key loci for equity and inclusion work, transforming public events into performative representations of a post-conflict cultural imaginary. The St. Patrick's Day parade in Belfast presents a fascinating model of how the creative work of artists and community organizers has been co-opted by local leaders to re-integrate generations old ethno-religious divides into a new urban, “Northern” identity. This paper will investigate the semiotics of performance in public space in order to understand how the work of artists, community organizers, and local leaders shapes and reinvents "Irishness" in Northern Ireland.