In 1980, when last I saw the Guyanese whose everyday struggles
provide the ethnographic grounding for this analysis of processes of
cultural production in the intersection of territorial and cultural
nationalism, they were nation building. They were attempting to get
their categories in order, their hyphens in place. For all of them, as for
all of us, it is a full-time job that must be done in spare time. For them,
as for some of us, the difficulties involved in getting the job done are
made more painful and costly by the criteria against which success
and failure are evaluated. For all the Guyanese the pains, the costs,
and the benefits, I shall argue, must be understood as consequences of
their efforts to produce a culture and a nation within the constraints
and against the grain of the particular form of Anglo-European
hegemonic dominance that developed during the colonial era.
As part of their nation-building task, they are trying to relate the
past to the present in order to decide how best to mete out material
and moral justice in the future. In this undertaking at times they
continue to compete with the metropole by upholding "British"
standards. Through this process they not only construct themselves
as citizens of a new state seeking a place in the international order of
nation-states, they also construct themselves variously as members of
races, classes, and ethnic groups. Their membership in these subna-
tional, culturally constituted categories differentially links them to
a series of what I will argue are disjunctive and conjunctive histori-
cal experiences that simultaneously (1) divide them into bounded
tie these groups to one another, and
link their con-
temporary cultural struggles to become Guyanese to the struggles
through which they and their ancestors became British during the
colonial era of conquest, slavery, and indentureship.
Under these conditions history becomes a siren that simulta-
neously calls them, on the one hand, to construct and maintain
distinctive group identities, while, on the other, it encourages them
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