Jane Felstead is a content writer at Cultural Infusion and is the project manager in charge of the Diversity Atlas Cultural Events calendar’s content.
The Diversity Atlas Cultural Events Calendar is the largest, and the most comprehensive of its kind, and we’re proud to host it on our site. It is the labour of much research, planning, writing, and most of all, consideration. We have done our best to be culturally aware and sensitive in our handling of each single entry, which in a brief paragraph, describe significant events from around the world, be they triumph, or tragedy, or both at once. Some events seek to draw public attention to global issues.
There is one universal point of commonality, however, with every entry: contained in each of them is a story about people. The most important factor, therefore, in the research that went into this project, and the choices and omissions we made, is respect for the lived experiences of those people across the world, and through the ages.
That said, a note: while being respectful was our priority, we don’t pretend, as an organisation, to be authorities or claim ownership of all, or even most, of these stories, beliefs or issues. We also acknowledge that different events will mean different things to different people. If you identify areas where we can do better, please let us know.
Another caveat on this resource, especially for those engaged in diversity initiatives — while we hope this calendar will be a useful resource for learning about world cultures, we do not intend this calendar to be used as a tokenistic nod to diversity and inclusion. This is an especially important consideration with respect to marginalised groups whose struggles are ongoing and manifest every day of the year, not just on one public holiday.
An isolated gesture on behalf of a marginalised community risks being received by that community as simply performative. If an organisation reproduces someone’s symbolic imagery and does not also explore, in a meaningful way, the various ways they are able to support the community – it risks undermining the labour of those who may be more genuinely invested in meaningful change.
In engaging with this calendar there are other potential pitfalls too – misrepresenting cultures and communities, and even contributing to systemic social issues through tokenism, cultural appropriation, or encouraging performative ‘virtue signaling’ over sustained and authentic work in the diversity, equity and inclusion space.
Personally – speaking as the project director, but also a person with preconceptions, my own worldview, and my own contexts and unconscious biases, this project came with challenges well beyond editing language and ensuring accuracy.
We were very lucky with the team who worked on this — everyone was enthusiastic, empathic and did their best to represent the cultures and events they were exploring, time after time, with not just great respect, but also great curiosity.
For my part, the hardest bit was not getting the work done: I’m a content writer, I get words out fast, and I’m not precious in the editing of them. That was fine. The hardest part was knowing where to stop —when we include, for example, religious festive days, obviously there are the ‘major’ religions. Those were basically covered early on. Except, we definitely wanted to go beyond ‘basically’, in curating our events collection.
At this point, things escalated rapidly.
There are denominational differences, for just one example, in religions: the Catholic Feasts, of which there are many, or Orthodox observances, working according to a different calendar, and the sometimes subtle variations in custom and celebration across the world.
How deep down the denominational rabbit hole were we to go? And what do the inclusions — and, just as importantly — the omissions — say about us as a team, and more broadly, as an organisation? Are we being too Australia-centric when we have a world-wide client base? Do we want to include all the Japanese festivals, across all their prefectures — even the ones related to — ahem — male fertility? Objectively, I say yes.
But perhaps this event falls on the same date as a deeply sacred observance of a conservative religion – for some events to even sit side by side, is a choice that could very easily deeply offend. Taking this into account, too, is a choice that reflects on the project.
I’m going to stop now, because, like I discovered a few days before we were scheduled to go live, we have to draw the line somewhere on the constant questioning. I hope we got the right balance, and look forward to feedback. This, like all our offerings, will never be a ‘finished’ product. The questions raised in its construction may wind up being just as important as the insights we can offer.
Our next post on the calendar will offer some real, practical and culturally sensitive ways to approach cultural events, both for organisations to incorporate as a small part of their DEI journey, and for the more broadly culturally curious.
In that spirit of curiosity, please enjoy this resource – as with Diversity Atlas itself, we wanted to create something informative, inclusive, accurate and comprehensive. We would like to suggest that you use it as only a starting point from which to expand your knowledge of the world. Taken as a whole, the Diversity Atlas Cultural Events Calendar is curated to reflect the rich variety of deeply human ways the days of a year are celebrated and commemorated. Taken individually, events should be engaged with respectfully, with an open mind, and in good faith.
To view the calendar, please visit: https://diversityatlas.io/calendar/
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