Premila van Ommen

AHRC TECHNE funded doctoral student

Being “Gurkha”, Becoming British: Fashion, Creativity and Diaspora Identity Formation Amongst Young Nepali Migrants

University of the Arts, London

2016 -  

The aim of this study is to observe Nepali youth fashion, arts, activities and education in Britain to see how Nepali cultures are being preserved and how new cultures are being made.   Since 2004, Gurkha families migrated multi-generational households to Britain under new UK settlement rights. Once in the UK, the Nepali youth quickly organized music, dance and fashion events and began to pursue arts courses without the pressures to focus on vocational professional training experienced by other South Asian communities.  This research explores the reasons for and outcomes of such trends in the shaping of new transnational identities through the world of fashion and arts-related education and activities. It seeks to chart creative production by observing community and youth events in order to advance definitions of culture, class, and modernity through migration. This study is informed by contemporary research on identities constructed through digital technologies, making contributions to new explorations of globalized fashion consumption.  Studying young artists, bloggers and fashion students, this project extends the framework for youth subcultural studies by taking into account cross-generational negotiations, bringing the often-missing voices of parents and elders into studies of youth subcultures. It will study cultural preservation and change; parents pass on traditions as children help them with details of ‘British’ styling.  Recently, devastating earthquakes strengthened ties to Nepal. Nepali youth in Britain responded with arts- related fundraisers to rebuild schools, art centres and assist health projects. Further disruptions in Nepal grew after a new constitution and a blockade by India. The urgency of these crises changed the context for young Nepalis who already hoped to utilise arts in projects for sustainability and development.  Between anxieties about a homeland and creating new selves, this project examines how a young generation navigates between learning what it means to be “Gurkha” and becoming British.