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Title: Religion and ethnic identity : Gurung experiences of belonging in the UK
Author: Gurung, Florence
ISNI:       0000 0004 6060 5802
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis seeks to identify the place and significance of religion in constructions of ethnic identity and experiences of belonging among Gurungs in the UK. It assesses both the vision of Gurung ethnic identity put forward by ethnic organizations, which is itself much disputed, and the extent to which this vision either reflects or shapes religion 'on the ground'. It argues that debates and controversies surrounding Gurung religious identity are influenced by ethnic politics in Nepal, by social changes and modernist ideas about the superiority of world religions over local traditions, by the pervasive discourse regarding exclusivity in religion, as well as by historical, but highly contested, status differences within Gurung society. It also suggests that those debates are complicated by divergent conceptions of 'religion', and of how 'religion' relates to 'culture'. When considering religion 'on the ground', the thesis assesses the extent to which Buddhism and Bon are practised as an expression of Gurung culture, thus reinforcing a sense of belonging within the Gurung community, and the extent to which particular religious traditions strengthen a broader Nepali identity or universal orientation, whereby religious belonging outweighs ethnic loyalties. It concludes that both orientations are in evidence and, in general, are considered mutually reinforcing. However, from the perspective of Christian Gurungs and followers of Sai Baba - paths often considered foreign to Gurung culture - a tension is more evident. For many Nepalis, however, religious identity is complex and multiple. Many include elements of different religious traditions in their regular practice and there is a whole range of customs, values, attitudes and understandings of religion which are shared by Nepalis but which are understood to belong to no particular religion, or to all. I suggest that it is as much through these aspects of religion, as through commitment to the vision of Gurung religious identity officially promoted, that a sense of commonality and belonging is created within the diaspora.
Supervisor: Gellner, David ; Hausner, Sondra Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Gurung (Nepalese people)--Religion ; Nepali people--Great Britain ; Nepali people--Ethnic identity ; Christianity and other religions--Hinduism ; Christianity and other religions--Buddhism ; Great Britain--Ethnic relations