Accepted Paper:

Youths and military migration: recruitment, ethnic identity and social change  


Avash Piya (Aarhus University)

Paper short abstract:

I shall explore how the decisions relating to recruitment and migration are being negotiated within ethnic Gurung families, and how the ethnic identity of Gurung boys are expressed during the process of recruitment, as they aspire to become ‘Gurkha’ soldiers.

Paper long abstract:

Gurungs have been the highest providers of 'Gurkha' military service proportional to their population than any other ethnic group in Nepal, and have also benefited from these services as they have higher literacy standard and acquired higher remittances. Gurung families also see recruitment in 'Gurkha' services as a way to create continuity between the past and the future generations of Gurungs. Thus, Gurung families continue to send their sons for recruitment as it is the most preferred choice of employment. However, over the years the number of intakes has decreased, and competition has been very high as thousands of young people go through various stages of screening to fill in a few places. There has also been an interest from other groups, ethnic and non-ethnic, who see recruitment as an opportunity that very limited to them previously. On the other hand, Gurungs families are now able to invest on education and other forms of career for their children, as historically they have always been on the margins of the State. There are also now political debates within Nepal that voices to cease recruitment as 'Gurkha' soldiers altogether. Given these social and political processes of change that are taking place in contemporary Nepal, Gurung youths with their history of military migration in the family are uniquely poised to take advantage of their new social and economic conditions. Are they better able to express their ethnic identity in the process of recruitment as they aspire to become 'Gurkha' soldiers?

Panel P28
Public displays of ethnic identity in Nepal