The way of the Gurkha : an investigation into the Gurkhas' position in the British Army

Rai, Mulibir (2018) The way of the Gurkha : an investigation into the Gurkhas' position in the British Army. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis attempts to contribute to the growing literature on the Gurkhas’ service in the British Army for over two centuries, considering the fundamental changes in the Gurkhas’ Terms and Condition of Service (GTCOS) which came about as a result of the Gurkha Justice Campaign. As a Gurkha filmmaker, my practice-based research project offers a detailed insight into Gurkhas’ historical and contemporary situation and shows the life of a Gurkha from a position of embodied empirical knowledge. It uses my trajectory from recruitment as a hillboy through active service towards retirement, as a narrative line through 'The Way of the Gurkha' feature documentary. The Gurkhas who were historically subjected to the Orientalist gaze of colonial humanist anthropology, continue to remain the subject of discourse. From such a standpoint, the academic discourse on the problem of the Gurkhas’ position, emerging from without appears skewed and stifled by the disciplinary contours of traditional methods of social enquiry. Therefore, this thesis provides an alternative way to theorise the whole process of how and why the Nepalese hillmen join the British Army and what their hierarchical position within it is. The PhD builds on the context of Gramsci’s concepts of 'subaltern' (dominated by an elite group both in power and knowledge), Said’s 'Orientalism' “other-opposite to the West” (1978: 47) and Foucault’s examination of power relations in 'Discipline and Punish', to address the enquiry about the Gurkhas’ position which has long been debated without any scholarly conclusion. The outcome of the study is that the Gurkhas’ service in the British Army has highlighted a shift in their socio-economic condition and, whereas this has helped maintain relations between Nepal and the United Kingdom, economic benefits have come at a price - of not only physical sacrifice, but emotional suffering, and cultural and social separation. Above all, the study finds that the Gurkhas’ position has always been subaltern in the British Army despite the historical record of glorious military service and unparalleled loyalty.

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