The Sense of Identity in a Limbu Community of South Wales

  • Aryan Niamir

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The Limbus are a Sino-Tibetan ethnic group that are components of a federated Nepali community indigenous to the easterly regions of Nepal, and were among one of the favoured groups recruited by the British Army's Brigade of Gurkhas. The transnational Nepali community in the focused region of South Wales (based in the town of Cwmbran) are mainly composed of ex-Gurkha soldiers and their dependents who began settling in the town (and the nearby region) from 2005; the Limbus in this particular community make up the plurality of the Nepali
    population. Since the democratisation of Nepal in 1990, greater recognition of the Limbu culture, language and the Kirati religion has manifested leading to many Limbus re-discovering their unique heritage, which for years had undergone a process of cultural re-programming by the indomitable Indo-Nepali leaders throughout modern Nepali history. This study focuses on how a
    transnational Limbu community negotiates its sense of identity as an ethnic group within the framework of a greater Nepali community residing in South Wales (United Kingdom).

    This study employed an ethnographic research approach with qualitative techniques ranging from semi-structured and unstructured interviews, group discussions and observations over a period of two years. This study looked at identity in two generational groups (defined as first and second generation) as well as by gender in a total sample size of 30 individuals (14 males - 4 first-gen, 10 sec-gen; 16 females - 7 first-gen, 9 sec-gen). A major framework that was taken into consideration for the purpose of this study is the present researcher's epistemological position, as he has been a part of the community since marrying one of its members in 2009, but has been involved in its activities since 2006, hence, some of the data was supported by the researcher's prior knowledge and observations.

    The results indicated that there is a growth in the sense of Limbu identity within the community since their settlement in South Wales as well as an increased desire to learn and preserve the Limbu language, religion and culture among the various demographical groups. This is due to increased awareness of Limbu history, exposure to Limbu culture, the influence of Kirat Yakthung Chumlung (an Indigenous People's Organisation) and community growth. How ethnic/national identity is internalised and externalised can vary by demographical strata but common forms of identity expression also exist in the practices and institutions of the Limbu people. A sense of Nepali identity has also grown among most members of the Limbu community, particularly the second-generation. There are also indications that several first-generation participants have grown resentful towards Indo-Nepali culture for the perceived influence it has had in diluting the Limbu culture; nevertheless, everybody within the sample identify as both Limbu and Nepali, and most continue to identify as Hindu despite growing interest in the Kirati religion. Though Limbus generally prefer to remain in close associations with other Nepalis, they are open to integrating with their host-society culture and have adopted a number of cultural norms and celebrations attributed to Wales; however, individuals seldom identify as British/Welsh despite their years of residency. Generally they identify as non-resident Nepalis, but they also accept British/Welsh-Nepali as an indication of residency/citizenry in conjunction with their underlying sense of national and ethnic identity.
    Date of Award7 Jun 2017
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorShirley Egley (Supervisor), Nicholas Swann (Supervisor) & Lynn Foulston (Supervisor)

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