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Conflicts in Identity
Conflicts in Identity, the first interdisciplinary symposium for graduate students at the University at Buffalo hosted by the Anthropology Graduate Student Association took place took place on Saturday, April 9, 2011. The essays contained in this volume are meant to reflect the original research of UB graduate students in the fields of the social and human sciences with a focus on instances where questions of conflict and identity are intertwined.
MICHAEL V. RIENTI, JR. is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology (Archaeology), University at Buffalo and President of the Anthropology Graduate Student Association.
LAURA A. LEVON is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology (Cultural Anthropology), University at Buffalo and Vice President of the Anthropology Graduate Student Association.
JENNIFER L. FAUX. is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology (Archaeology), University at Buffalo and Treasurer of the Anthropology Graduate Student Association
CAITLIN L. CURTIS is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology (Archaeology), University at Buffalo and Secretary of the Anthropology Graduate Student Association.
Acknowledgements ix 1 Introduction 1
Michael V. Rienti, Jr. 2 “With the Kindred by our Sides”: Rebuilding Multi-layered Religious
Identities among Modern Neo-pagan Druids 3
Beth Savage 3 After the Fall: Maintenance of Identity Following the Loss of a City 10
Meagan Ayer 4 Identity Crisis in “Indian” Country 19
Sierra Adare-Tasiwoopa ápi 5 The Changing State of the Iroquois Economy: Gendered Effects
Generated by the Processes of Colonization 29
Jennifer Loft 6 The Bacchannalist of the Flag Woman: Women of the Steelpan
Makeda Greene 7 Public Identities, Public Conflicts: The Troubles on Parade? 45
Laura A. LeVon 8 Distorted Histories: The Attempt to Disentangle Past Identities
in Northern Ecuador 56
Amber Kling 9 Misidentification and the Self 68
10 In Solidarity of Exclusion: The Symbols of Identity, Community
and Violence 81
Mia M. Jorgensen 11 Images of Children and Childhood Identity at Teotihuacan, Mexico:
Presenters* The following individuals presented papers at the 2011 AGSA Interdisciplinary Graduate symposium but were unfortunately unable to contribute them to this volume:
CAITLIN L. CURTIS
Department of Anthropology
Tumuli and Social Structure in Central Lydia: Paths of the Non-elite STEPHEN DEMCHAK
Department of American Studies
From “Academic Indians to Twinkies”: The Growing Problem of Self-Identification in Native/Indigenous Culture HANS HARMSEN
Department of Anthropology
Institution and Identity in the Wendat-Tiononaté Society: Reinterpreting the Cyclical Reproduction of Community Space and Power in Pre-contact Ontario ALPHONSE KOLODZIEJCZAK
Department of English
The Politics and Aesthetics of Leopold Bloom’s Identity SARAH MCCULLEY
Department of Linguistics
Kinship Terminology and Naming Practices in Bengali
* All of the contributors and presenters are graduate students at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York
Acknowledgements On behalf of the Anthropology Graduate Student Association (AGSA), University at Buffalo, State University of New York, I would like to thank the following organizations for their generous support toward making the 2011 AGSA Interdisciplinary Graduate Symposium a success:
The Graduate Student Association, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, for their financial support for both the symposium and this volume through the award of a Symposium Funding Grant and a Scholarly Publications Grant; and also for serving as the financial agent for these undertakings.
The Sub-Board I, Inc., University at Buffalo, State University of New York, for their financial support of the symposium through the award of a Programming Grant.
The Classics, Communications, Geography, History, Media Studies, Philosophy and Visual Studies Graduate Student Associations, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, for their generous co-sponsorships of the symposium.
The Department of Anthropology, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, for their financial support and assistance in obtaining the ISBN for this volume.
Michael V. Rienti, Jr.
Introduction Michael V. Rienti, Jr.
Throughout the conception, planning and implementation of the 2011 Anthropology Graduate Student Association Interdisciplinary Graduate Symposium, (hereafter referred to simply as the AGSA Symposium) two closely related goals were always foremost in the thoughts of its organizers – inclusion and interdisciplinarity.
Unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult for graduate students to attend conferences. In addition to juggling class schedules and teaching, ceaseless reading and writing, and for many a part time job; there are also the often prohibitive costs of registration, travel, food and lodging. In many instances graduate students are only able to attend conferences, in particular larger conferences, when they happen to be held geographically nearby. This symposium was meant to provide as many University at Buffalo (UB) graduate students as possible with a venue where they could present their research not only if they were unable to attend and present at a larger conference; but to also provide a means of obtaining presentation experience and the opportunity to receive feedback on their research prior to taking it to a more prestigious event.
A welcomed and desired outcome of inclusion in this instance was interdisciplinarity; not only across the subfields of anthropology, but across multiple fields of the humanities and social sciences. This type of collaboration is ideal for several reasons. First and foremost, while anthropology is justifiably able to make the claim that it is the only discipline to study humanity and its condition at all time and in all places; it is undeniable that without the information and knowledge, the method and theories generated by numerous other fields, that anthropology as a discipline would not be where it is today. It is important for anthropologists and other academics continue to exchange ideas for the betterment of all of their disciplines.
Second, given the propensity for interdisciplinary research projects in post-graduate and career settings, the more opportunities and experience graduate students have to network and share ideas amongst one can only be beneficial.
CONFLICTS IN IDENTITY
The symposium theme, Conflicts in Identity, was ideal for meeting these aims because both of these topics have received considerable attention fields in many academic fields, especially in recent years. Furthermore, questions relating to these two topics are often inseparable.
I am pleased to report the symposium a resounding success, particularly with regard to the goals of inclusion and interdisciplinarity. Over fifty faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students attended this event. A total of fifteen papers were presented in three sessions entitled Group Ties, Deconstructing Identities and Creating Identities. They included research from the perspectives of American Studies, Archaeology, Classics, Cultural Anthropology, English, Global Gender Studies, Linguistics and Philosophy; exploring questions of conflict and identity with regard to language, colonialism, religion, community, individuality, gender, ethnicity, class, status, material culture, power and space.
At this point I would like to make several further acknowledgements; because while funding is one half of what is required to hold a symposium, then people are the other. First, I would like to thank all of the graduate students who took the time out of their always busy, often hectic semesters to write and present papers. All of the presentations were excellent; we would not have had a symposium without you.
Second, on behalf of all of the symposium organizers and presenters, I extend our thanks to all of the volunteers from the AGSA who gave up some or all of what turned out to be an uncharacteristically beautiful day for early April in Buffalo, to help with set-up, sign-In answering questions, assisting the catering staff with coffee breaks and lunch, and staying after the symposium ended to wrestle all of those tables back upstairs to the graduate lounge.
Last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank AGSA officers Vice President Laura LeVon, Secretary Caitlin Curtis and Jennifer Faux. When first broached with the topic of organizing an AGSA sponsored symposium, they were very supportive of the idea, and agreed to take on this project in addition to what was already looking to be a very busy year for the AGSA. They assisted with selecting the symposium topic, writing grants, attending finance meetings, reviewing submissions and many other details. They each also wrote and presented a paper at the symposium itself, and have contributed to the editing of this volume. I could not have accomplished all of these tasks by myself, and without them would have been no symposium and this volume would not exist.
A NOTE REGARDING EDITS
Edits for this volume were kept to the minimum in order to retain each of the essays as closely as possible to their original text as presented during the symposium. In addition, given the interdisciplinary nature of this volume, certain discipline specific formatting practices were retained while formatting the final text as these practices were viewed as being contextually appropriate.
“With the Kindred by our sides”: Rebuilding Multi-layered Religious Identities among Modern Neo-pagan Druids Beth Savage
Modern Neo-pagans who “come out of the broom closet” often experience the loss of family and friends as well as the loss of their religious community. In this paper, I explore how one American Druid organization provides the opportunity for individuals to build a new, three-tiered identity through the interplay of practice, discourse, and history. Situated in a past world of enchantment that has been reinterpreted by the present, identity formation occurs at three intersecting and sometimes conflicting levels: individual, family/community and world. A personal identity as a Druid begins with often contradictory images of Druids throughout history and literature. These aspects must be combined in a way that reflects modern values and realities. Each individual is encouraged to integrate supernatural entities, called Kindred, into their new family/community. The Kindred consist of deceased ancestors, nature spirits, and deities. These relationships can be of differing degrees and classifications, but usually focus on reciprocity and mutual respect. At the third tier, the individual creates, articulates, and internalizes a relationship with the natural environment through the development of a connection with the “Earth Mother”. These relationships and identities are strengthened and validated through embodied practice, especially in group and personal ritual, dynamically shifting along with the needs and expectations of the individuals. The data for this paper was gathered using interviews and the anthropological tools of fieldwork and participant observation.
Neo-paganism is a rapidly growing spirituality in the United States, but it is a difficult one to describe and define. Anthropologists have described neo-paganism as a “revitalization religion” (Luhrmann 1989), a “reconstruction or continuation of an older religion” (Salomonsen 2002), and as a “created religion” (Magliocco 2004). Other scholars have defined the group by focusing on individuals who practice Native North American traditions, including vision quests and sweat baths, or limited the definition to members of Wiccan covens. Still others include as members only those who espouse pagan causes such as environmentalism. As a result, the estimates of the number of practicing neo-pagans in the United States range widely from less than 50,000 to more than 4,000,000 (Adler 1986, Berger 1999, Hunter 2006).
In general, neo-paganism is a nature-based spirituality in which each person has the opportunity to create his or her own tradition by picking and choosing elements from various cultures. These ideas of pastiche and collage reflect neo-paganism’s postmodern nature. There is also an emphasis on personal experience: “external religious authority is widely rejected in favor of one's right to find a religion that meets one's own perceived needs” (Ellwood 1994). As a result, there are as many different paganisms as there are pagans.
In this paper, I focus on one particular neo-pagan organization of American druids called Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF). Although there is a great deal of flexibility within it, ADF provides a solid framework of ritual and culturally-based practices, moving it away from the postmodern outlook of most neo-paganisms. The focus is on orthopraxy, or “right acting,” instead of orthodoxy, or “right thinking.” As a result, there are no official teachings about, for example, the nature of deity. Thus, some members conceive of the divine as immanent, independent living beings; others approach the topic through an atheistic, agnostic, or transcendent framework. These different viewpoints are reflected in the examples discussed.
Religious conversion involves a threat to a person’s identity as well as their understanding of reality and how the world works. This is made more difficult due to the central role that religion, or the lack thereof, plays in most American families. Although many religions provide mechanisms and support for interested seekers, the relative lack of structure within neo-paganism forces the individual to find their own way. In addition, the largest and best-known denomination of neo-paganism is Wicca. Most people assume that all neo-pagans are “witches,” with all of the cultural baggage that comes along with the term.
For many ADF members, their initial questioning of the religion they were raised in revolved around issues of contradiction and logic. As a child, Sophia was relieved when she discovered that other religions existed: “They took us to a Jewish temple and when I got there, I was like, ‘Oh thank God there's something else, because this doesn’t make any sense to me.’ It was the first clue I had that there might be other religions, other traditions, or other ideas.”
Conversion typically took place over an extended period of time, and was framed as an intellectual search. Individuals tended to read about multiple mainstream religions as well as the myths and religions of ancient cultures. For many individuals, at the heart of the struggle were issues of personal integrity. This was the case with Emily who was raised as a Mormon.
I got tired. I got tired of being something that I was not. Back to that hypocrisy thing again. I can't do this. I can't do this to myself. That was number one. Number two was that whole heavenly mother thing. We're told that we are made in God's image – no, apparently God doesn't look like me. The teaching was that the God of this world was once a man, once a human flesh and blood being who had become exalted and has eternal life. But apparently I'm in his image and not hers. [T]his is supposed to be my heavenly parentage. I'm not allowed to give honor to half of that. So it's like I'm socking my mom in the teeth.
Most ADF members became Wiccans first because it was the most accessible neo-pagan religion. As Sophia said, “it was all you could find in the Religion section of the local Barnes & Noble.” However, after spending awhile in Wicca, some individuals were unsatisfied with this goddess-centered religion. Emily felt that Wicca had the same problem as Mormonism – both exalted one sex and ignored the other.
I'd fallen in with the feminist circle for a short time and this actually, it was weird – it was like a bridge. When I had gotten into Wicca it was like ‘Okay! Goddess! Yes! I got it! Goddess! I can worship the goddess – this is so cool! Goddess! Goddess! Goddess! Yea!’
But getting involved with the feminist circle – it was like Yahweh in drag. It became just the same thing – just that lack of balance and ‘Let’s sock the male half of humanity in the teeth because they're all pigs. Let's replace everything involving men – including the word man itself.’ You know… the kind of people who spell women with a Y or plural w-i-m-m-i-n. So let's sock grammar in the teeth also.
It [was] a nice place to stop to kind of regroup, to get all my stuff together, my ducks in a row, etc. It was not a place I wanted to stay.
Modern neo-pagans must also decide if they are ready to “come out of the broom closet” to their family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Many who did so reported discrimination of some sort, from being fired from a job to the loss of the family and friends. Jan described how her brother-in-law “outed” her during a gathering with her husband’s side of the family.
That's when my brother-in-law popped off and said, ‘So what? You're going to that [druid worship service] regularly now?’
And I said, ‘Yeah, fairly regularly.’
‘Okay so you are a Wiccan.’
‘No, Arthur. I never said I was Wiccan.’
‘ Okay, but you are a pagan, Jan. Why don't you just stand up and admit it already? You're a pagan.’
And then he looked over at my father-in-law, ‘You know that she's practicing witchcraft, don't you? You know… you're not a dumb man. You know what she's been doing.’
The old man was standing up at that point and he looked at me and all of the sudden recognized what I [had been] wearing…for months [a pentagram necklace]. And the old man clutched at his chest and fell on his butt on the loveseat. And he said something that I couldn't understand but [my husband] was sitting next to him and said, ‘I don't know if she's a polytheist, grandpa.’
And I said, ‘Well, for the record: number one, that's none of your damn business. And number two, I know plenty of people who would call themselves pagan [and] would also consider themselves monotheists. It's called henotheism – look it up!’
The possible loss of family and friends, as well as the loss of their original religious community, leaves many pagans feeling isolated and alone. Through the ADF community and ritual practices, the new member is able to construct a new identity, new family relationships, and a new connection with the world.
The historical druids were the intellectual class of the ancient Celts, made up of religious authorities, judges, physicians, historians, and poets. Since the Celts did not leave written records about themselves, there is relatively little information about exactly who the druids were and what they did. Reports from Greek and Roman sources, literature, archaeology, and linguistics provide bits of data that have been woven together in different ways to form sometimes-contradictory images of the ancient druid. Eighteenth century Romanticism in the British Isles and the Celtic Revival of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries re-created the druid, reflecting the needs and outlooks of the time.
ADF druidism was intended to be created from “the best aspects of the Pagan religions of our predecessors within a modern scientific, artistic, ecological and wholistic [sic] context using a nondogmatic and pluralistic approach…ADF is working to combine in-depth scholarship with the inspiration of artistry and spiritual practice to create a powerful modern Paganism” (Fox 2007).
Many ADF druids focus on the importance of creating and maintaining connections. Anna summarized ADF druidism in this way: “For me, being an ADF Druid is being connected with the earth and connected more with the old ways.” Ash saw ADF druidism as a way of being part of the world:
[I believe that a druid is] …a person who finds God in nature and who seeks to be part of that. God happens to live in that rock out there and it's in the city as well as in the trees. And the druid wants to be part of it, not stand outside of it and look at it, but be part of it. …Ritual worship and offerings are two ways in which a person can seek to become part of that phenomenon.
Each individual is encouraged to integrate supernatural entities, called the Kindred, into their new family/community. The Kindred consist of ancestors, nature spirits, and deities. These relationships can be of differing degrees and classifications, but usually focus on reciprocity and mutual respect.
Ancestors, also referred to as The Mighty Ones, are the deceased relatives and heroes of the individual. Although the initial focus was on blood relatives, this caused difficulties for those members who did not know their relatives or who had poor relationships with them. Many druids have taken up the practice of honoring three types of ancestors. “Ancestors of blood” are those people to whom the druid is related through links of blood or marriage. “Ancestors of the heart” are based on the concept of a “chosen family” and comes from the LGBTQ community. These are the people who are chosen to become part of someone’s family despite the lack of a blood or legal connection (Oswald 2002). The third category of ancestors is “ancestors of the spirit.” These are the individuals who inspire us or are our intellectual forebears. Nature Spirits, also called The Noble Ones, are the spirits of animals, plants, the land itself, and meteorological phenomenon. Some druids focus on individual nature spirits, while others see it as a more general relationship with nature as a whole. Finally, The Shining Ones are the Gods and Goddesses, the most powerful of the three Kindred.
Relationships with the Kindred take many different forms. Creating and maintaining a connection with the Kindred can help a druid re-create or alter a formerly poor or difficult relationship. Sherry had a difficult relationship with her living family and had been hesitant to seek out deceased ancestors until the following experience.
[During a trance journey], I opened the door and was surprised to see my grandmother. I always thought she didn’t like me – since I was one of 20 – so I was always quiet when we visited her. She smiled and immediately gave me a hug. I told her that I didn’t think she liked me; she said, “We’re blood,” as if that explained everything.
The Kindred, especially Gods and Goddesses, often act as patrons or role models. Neil, who had been abused by his father, asked Jupiter to be his patron.
I decided that I needed a good male role model – a strong, kind of father figure. I didn't approach him like a son since I have really bad associations with fathers. So I approached him In as kind of a – not an equal in the sense that humans are equal to Gods. I approached him with confidence rather than supplication. I don't know that he likes that necessarily, but he hasn't said any differently so I guess it's okay with him. Kindred can also help a druid develop more confidence and feel supported by someone who loves them. Kimberly felt that the Roman deity Juno helped her become more assertive.
What she gives to a person, she wants to be used wisely. And I think that she wants… anyone who follows her to walk about with…[their] head held high. And not like… some ‘Oh, poor me’ downtrodden whiney thing, because this is the queen – Juno Regina. You know, I’m definitely not her equal, but she wants to give you a little sense of pride too.
Sometimes the Kindred act as healers of physical or emotional damage. Cheryl, a victim of child abuse, in part credits the Irish deity Brigid, a healer, with her recovery.
I worked with Brigid for most of my pagan life because [of] the healing from the abuse of my family. Brigid has helped get rid of the dead shit they forced on me…. She guides me along and, even though she's not a mother figure, has held me while I go through the change, the death. Because I really do honestly feel almost completely like a new person now compared to what I did when I started healing. I barely recognize myself.
Often, the Kindred work in subtle ways. After making several key decisions about his life, John noticed that ravens, associated with his patron Odin appeared. He interpreted this to be a sign that the deity supported John’s decisions. Sometimes, the Kindred act directly in someone’s life. Anastasia had helped care for a very ill man. One night, she had an out-of-body experience in which she traveled to his hospital room.
I saw this man die. And I saw the spirit and the essence of Paul depart his body. He knew he had to go somewhere and he did not like it. He was scared out of his mind. And [he saw] the one person there who, to his knowledge, might [be able to help him]. There I was. So, it's like ‘I don't want to go alone. You're coming with me.’ ‘No, I don't want to go with you. It's not my time yet.’ It turns into a wrestling match and this is when I saw the Goddess coming down wrapped up in lightning bolts. She literally got into me and sent Paul off with blasts of lightning. And when I came out of it, I had all the physical symptoms of a mild electrocution.
The next day Anastasia discovered that Paul had died in a hospital at the same time as her out-of-body experience.
ADF also encourages local congregations, called groves, to make connections with the local community. Each grove is required to perform community service at least four times during the year. Many druids feel this is vital because, in addition to helping people, it gives a public face to neo-paganism. Many neo-pagans of all denominations keep their identities hidden out of fear of discrimination. By definition, Wiccan covens tend to be secret with identities strictly kept confidential.
I find it extremely important, and again it goes back to hush-hush secrecy thing. How are you going to get taken seriously as a part of the community and not this fringe bunch of freaks, but regular ordinary Joes? How are you going to be taken seriously if you don't give a damn about your community? If you insist on keeping everything under wraps and you don't go out and reach out to your fellow man? I think it is extremely important… no matter what.
At the third tier, the individual creates, articulates, and internalizes a relationship with the natural environment through the development of a connection with the “Earth Mother.” There are different theories about the nature of the Earth Mother, how conscious she is of human activity, and what she wants from us.
Many ADF druids are interested in the Gaia hypothesis, developed initially by James Lovelock, which proposes that “…regulation, at a state fit for life, is a property of the whole evolving system of life, air, ocean, and rocks” (Lovelock 2000). The presence of a sentience, as well as other details of the Gaia hypothesis, are widely debated. Reggie’s view of the Earth Mother is common: “The Earth Mama, Terra Mater. She is a great old woman with a lot of innate wisdom – and perhaps sentience on a very basic level. I tend to think that the earth itself is a living spirit, so I guess I tend more towards the Gaia hypothesis.”
Robin was comfortable with ambiguities in her understanding of the Earth Mother. “[I believe in] the Gaia hypothesis…. I’m not exactly sure why though – other than that we are dependent on the earth for everything. Even synthetic things are made of stuff from the Earth, so she is mother in that way. Sometimes I think of it as a system, like ecology. It seems like more of a maternal feeling rather than just sort of a mechanics type of thing.”
The central role of the Earth Mother in ADF ritual encourages druids to think about and act on their responsibility to the earth as a whole. This typically takes the form of ecological and global concerns. Ninian expressed a common sentiment among ADF members: “Somehow Western culture has gotten connected with not paying attention to nature, thinking that you're not part of nature, that you don't have to have any concern about nature and just mine things and cut down trees. Like you're in a bubble or something.”
Nick believed that environmental activism needed to be at the heart of ADF druidism: “If you're in something referred to as an Earth-centered or Earth-based religion, you do kind of have to walk the walk… I expect a Christian… if you are going to profess faith in a man who is said to have fed five thousand on a mountaintop, you better be out there doing some work to feed people.”
Although some druids interpreted the 2011 earthquake in Japan as a sign of the anger of the Earth Mother, most saw it as a natural occurrence. Emily saw it as an opportunity for global cooperation.
Crap is going to happen. I really don't think in the long run that ritual and offerings are going to change stuff like that from happening, but maybe it can help our response to it and how we deal with it. Because if we sit there bemoaning, ‘God is doing this. God is pissed. Blah, blah, blah, wah, wah, wah,’ we’re not making it a better place – certainly not for the Japanese or whomever else is touched by the next disaster. And we’re certainly doing nothing for ourselves either, because we’re just sticking ourselves into a hole and all we do is whine.
These relationships and identities are strengthened and validated through embodied practice, especially in group and personal ritual, dynamically shifting along with the needs and expectations of the individuals. The highlight of an ADF ritual is the sharing of gifts between the druids and the Kindred. During a ritual, druids give offerings to the Kindred; in return, the Kindred give blessings, messages, or other gifts to the druids. Shannon hoped that a gift to Hermes would result in his aid in a speech she had to give.
I’m not a bard and I hate public speaking, but I had to give a really big talk at work. I thought if I showed Hermes [a Greek deity who is a patron of public speaking] that I was making an effort, he’d help me out. So I memorized a poem about Hermes and did it at ritual as an offering. When I did the speech [at work], I felt like Hermes was standing there with me, supporting me. Maybe it was just my imagination, but it worked.
Ecstatic trances and possession can also open connections between the druid and the Kindred.
At one festival, a druid, who was dancing around a fire to the sound of drummers, entered a trance in which she was joined by a spirit ally.
I could feel the drumbeat through my feet and even the air seemed to pulse. As I kept dancing, I felt the world get smaller and smaller so that it was just me, the fire, and the drums. Then I saw my panther jump into the circle and start dancing with me. She was graceful and strong and I felt my panther-self respond to her. We mirrored each other as we danced around the bonfire. I don’t think that anyone else knew what was going on, but it was a powerful experience.
In conclusion, ADF druidism recognizes the often-traumatic experiences that a new member may undergo upon becoming a neo-pagan. Although it may vary in its degree and extent, all neo-pagans face the loss of their former religious community and may find their personal relationships changed or destroyed. In the process of developing a new identity as an ADF druid, the individual has opportunities to build a new family and community made up of supernatural entities, as well as develop a new connection with the world as a whole.
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