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The Capacity to Share: new volume on Cuban educational internationalism

By Paul Ryer, greater Cuba, new book, new chapter/edited volume, Space & Place, youth cultures No Comments »

Although not “by or for ethnographers of contemporary Cuba and its diasporas,” The Capacity to Share: A Study of Cuba’s International Cooperation in Educational Development, (2012) ed. by Anne Hickling-Hudson, Jorge Corona González and Rosemary Preston, capacity to share coverwill be of substantial interest to scholars of Cuban education, as well as to those of us focusing on Cuban-educated international students.  Of particular interest are chapters on Cuban-educated graduates from the Anglophone Caribbean, from Ghana, Namibia, and Latin America, as well as the experiences of Cuban teachers in Jamaica, Angola and elsewhere.  Most interesting to me, at least, is an extended interview (by Sabine Lehr) with a Cuban-educated neurosurgeon, but there is also an article on the international film and media school likely to be of interest to several EthnoCubans.  As one can see from the publisher’s summary below, the book has a strongly political perspective which can be distracting, but not to the point that it is unreadable.  More worrisome is the fact that Palgrave has only released it in hardcover, for $95.00 plus shipping!

 

From the publisher:

The Capacity to Share is a discussion of Cuba’s international policies in education. It shows how Cuba shares its educational resources with other countries by helping them with scholarships; school and university teaching; and the development of adult literacy programs and of educational planning. The postcolonial critique underlying the book explores Cuba’s role in relation to how the disengagement from colonial legacies in education is taking place in many countries. This kind of critique is useful in discussing the alternatives that become possible with disentanglement from the constraints of colonial histories.

Sowing Change: The Making of Havana’s Urban Agriculture, by Adriana Premat

By Paul Ryer, daily life, new book, urban life No Comments »

Recently released is Sowing Change: The Making of Havana’s Urban Agriculture, by Adriana Premat, published as part of the new Cuba series at Vanderbilt University Press.  The book will be a welcome addition to the growing body of research on contemporary Cuban food and food production, and is due to be released November 26th.  Congratulations, Adriana!

 Here is the description from the publisher’s press release:

Following the dissolution of the Soviet bloc, Cuba found itself struggling to find its place in a new geopolitical context, while dealing with an unprecedented agricultural and food crisis that experts feel foreshadows the future of many countries across the globe. Sowing Change traces the evolution of the officially endorsed urban agriculture movement in the capital city of Havana, considering its political significance for the Cuban government and its import for transnational actors in the field of sustainable development. But the analysis does not stop at official understandings and representations of this movement. Rather, it brings into focus the perspectives of small-scale urban farmers–real men and women who live at the conceptual margins of the Cuban economy and struggle to balance personal needs and dreams with political ideals and government expectations, in a context where those very ideals and expectations continually shift. Sowing Change is a timely reflection on the changing agricultural, urban, and power landscapes of post-Soviet Cuba that, finally, queries common presumptions about this socialist nation and its now famous urban agriculture experience.

 

UPDATE (November 2013):  I have just taught this book in a graduate seminar topic focused on Cuban food production, and in the process of a close reading and discussion of the text, have concluded that the real contribution of this very accessible book to anthropological thought, as well as the the ethnographic literature of Cuba, is not simply on the topic of “urban agriculture,” but rather, in its close examination of the shifting relationship of state and citizen, from the relative openness and improvisation of the scarce years of the 1990s, to the recentralizations of the 2000s and beyond.  Here, I found the text dovetailed with Katherine Verdery’s (1996) oft-cited model of fluctuating socialist state relations to parallel markets, and wished I had also assigned the first part of Verdery’s book in counterpoint, as well as wishing that Premat had engaged more closely with that model.  In any case, my students were very taken with the book, particularly with the personal stories of urban gardeners.  Again, though, this is not simply a story of a few urban garderners in Havana in the wake of the Special Period; it is, truly, a story of the relationship of Cuban citizens and their state over the past two decades, and in that sense, would be worth considering for a wide variety of upper-level undergraduate courses, as well as of more interest to colleagues than perhaps the specificity of the title and topic would suggest.

Health Travels: Cuban Health(care) On and Off the Island, edited by Nancy J. Burke

daily life, Globalization, greater Cuba, Health, new book No Comments »

Edited by Nancy J. Burke and including contributions by many ethnographers and EC scholars, Health Travels: Cuban Health(care) On and Off the Island, UC Medical Humanities 2013, is now available for purchase or full-text download via this link.

From the publisher:

This collection of essays challenges static and binary discourses regarding the Cuban healthcare system, bringing together papers that paint a nuanced and dynamic picture of the intricacies of Cuban health(care) as it is represented and experienced both on the island and around the world. Health Travels is the first collection of its kind to map the recent history of the Cuban healthcare system in rich ethnographic detail. This collection of essays challenges static and binary discourses regarding the healthcare system, bringing together contributions that paint a picture of the nuanced and dynamic intricacies of Cuban health(care) as it is represented and experienced both on the island and around the world. In each instance, papers address macro-forces – national policies and global strategies – as well as micro-practices that at times counter, and at other times support, state-level programs. Exploring the praxis at the juncture of daily bodily practices and global representations this collection highlights how the Cuban state is instantiated in different contexts and for various purposes. Illuminating the complexity of the divide between the state and el pueblo, contributors to this volume highlight contradictions in daily living and the “success” of the Cuban health care system.

Paperback | 978-0-9889865-1-0 | Spring 2013 | 279 | 24.95

Where No Doctor has Gone Before: Cuba’s Place in the Global Health Landscape, by Robert Huish 2013

Health, new book No Comments »

Here is a new book likely to be of particular interest to medical anthropologists: Where No Doctor Has Gone Before: Cuba’s Place in the Global Health Landscape, by Robert Huish, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2013.  While the author is a professor of International Development Studies rather than an ethnographer, the book is based on interview data.  Here is WLUP’s summary:

Tens of thousands of people around the world die each day from causes that could have been prevented with access to affordable health care resources. In an era of unprecedented global inequity, Cuba, a small, low-income country, is making a difference by providing affordable health care to millions of marginalized people.

Cuba has developed a world-class health care system that provides universal access to its own citizens while committing to one of the most extensive international health outreach campaigns in the world. The country has trained thousands of foreign medical students for free under a moral agreement that they serve desperate communities. To date, over 110,000 Cuban health care workers have served overseas.

Where No Doctor Has Gone Before looks at the dynamics of Cuban medical internationalism to understand the impact of Cuba’s programs within the global health landscape. Topics addressed include the growing moral divide in equitable access to health care services, with a focus on medical tourism and Cuba’s alternative approach to this growing trend. Also discussed is the hidden curriculum in mainstream medical education that encourages graduates to seek lucrative positions rather than commit to service for the marginalized. The author shows how Cuba’s Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina (ELAM) serves as a counter to this trend.

An acknowledgement of Cuba’s tremendous commitment, the book reveals a compelling model of global health practice that not only meets the needs of the marginalized but facilitates an international culture of cooperation and solidarity.

 

New book, Trumpets in the Mountains: Theater and the Politics of National Culture in Cuba, by Laurie Frederick, Duke Univ Press 2012

Cultural production, daily life, new book No Comments »

It is such a thrill to report that Laurie Frederik’s new book, Trumpets in the Mountains: Theater and the Politics of National Culture in Cuba, Duke University Press, 2012, is now available.  Congratulations Laurie, look forward to reading it!

Description

Trumpets in the Mountains is a compelling ethnography about Cuban culture, artistic performance, and the shift in national identity after 1990, when the loss of Soviet subsidies plunged Cuba into a severe economic crisis. The state’s response involved opening the economy to foreign capital and tourism, and promoting previously deprecated cultural practices as quintessentially Cuban. Such contradictions of Cuba’s revolutionary ideals elicited an official preoccupation with how twenty-first-century cubanía, or Cubanness, was to be understood by its citizens and creatively interpreted by its artists. The rural campesino was re-envisioned as a key symbol of the future; the embodiment of socialist humility, cultural pureness, and educated refinement; potentially the Hombre Novísimo (even newer man) to replace the Hombre Nuevo (new man) of Cuban communist philosophy.

Campesinos inhabit some of the island’s most isolated areas, including the mountainous regions in central and eastern Cuba where Laurie A. Frederik conducted research among rural communities and professional theater groups. Analyzing the ongoing dialogue of cultural officials, urban and rural artists, and campesinos, Frederik provides an on-the-ground account of how visions of the nation are developed, manipulated, dramatized, and maintained in public consciousness. She shows that cubanía is defined, and redefined, in the interactive movement between intellectual, political, and everyday worlds.

 

Truth in motion: The recursive anthropology of Cuban divination, Martin Holbraad, U Chicago Press, 2012

Cultural production, new book, Religion No Comments »

Joining a growing collection of anthropological work on Cuban religious practice, Martin Holbraad’s Truth in Motion: The Recursive Anthropology of Cuban Divination, U Chicago Press 2012, has just been released.  More than simply presenting ethnographic data, Holbraad sets out to use his ethnographic insights to rethink disciplinary presumptions of anthropology as well.

From the web:

Embarking on an ethnographic journey to the inner barrios of Havana among practitioners of Ifá, a prestigious Afro-Cuban tradition of divination, Truth in Motion reevaluates Western ideas about truth in light of the practices and ideas of a wildly different, and highly respected, model. Acutely focusing on Ifá, Martin Holbraad takes the reader inside consultations, initiations, and lively public debates to show how Ifá practitioners see truth as something to be not so much represented, as transformed. Bringing his findings to bear on the discipline of anthropology itself, he recasts the very idea of truth as a matter not only of epistemological divergence but also of ontological difference—the question of truth, he argues, is not simply about how things may appear differently to people, but also about the different ways of imagining what those things are. By delving so deeply into Ifá practices, Truth in Motion offers cogent new ways of thinking about otherness and how anthropology can navigate it.

 

Review comments:

Andrew Apter
Truth in Motion is very much an intellectual journey, a rigorous engagement with Cuban divination and theories of meaning. It is extremely original, innovative—indeed daring and radical—in its invitation to replace our entire bedrock of representational semantics (and its associated distinctions between words and objects, signifiers and signifieds, judgments and facts, substances and attributes, etcetera) with a more generative ontology of ‘inventive definitions.’”–Andrew Apter, University of California, Los Angeles

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Brotherton, Revolutionary Medicine: Health and the Body in Post-Soviet Cuba, Duke 2012

Cultural production, daily life, Health, new book No Comments »

Congratulations to Sean Brotherton for his just-released book, Revolutionary Medicine: Health and the Body in Post-Soviet Cuba!  The volume is certain to set a new standard for theoretically sophisticated and ethnographically sustained  research on Cuban health systems and practices, about which there has until now been relatively little published beyond Whiteford & Branch and Hirshfeld’s work.  Meanwhile, here is the publisher’s description:

Revolutionary Medicine is a richly textured examination of the ways that Cuba’s public health care system has changed during the past two decades and of the meaning of those changes for ordinary Cubans. Until the Soviet bloc collapsed in 1989, socialist Cuba encouraged citizens to view access to health care as a human right and the state’s responsibility to provide it as a moral imperative. Since the loss of Soviet subsidies and the tightening of the U.S. economic embargo, Cuba’s government has found it hard to provide the high-quality universal medical care that was so central to the revolutionary socialist project. In Revolutionary Medicine, P. Sean Brotherton deftly integrates theory and history with ethnographic research in Havana, including interviews with family physicians, public health officials, research scientists, and citizens seeking medical care. He describes how the deterioration of health and social welfare programs has led Cubans to seek health care through informal arrangements, as well as state-sponsored programs. Their creative, resourceful pursuit of health and well-being provides insight into how they navigate, adapt to, and pragmatically cope with the rapid social, economic, and political changes in post-Soviet Cuba.

 

In Foreign Fields: The Politics and Experiences of Transnational Sport Migration, by Thomas Carter (2011)

Globalization, new book, Sport No Comments »

Here is another volume by a long-time colleague in which, although traveling beyond national or regional borders, Cuban research figures centrally–as the cover image certainly illustrates.  In Foreign Fields: The Politics and Experiences of Transnational Sport Migration, by Thomas Carter, Pluto Press 2011.

From the publisher:

In Foreign Fields examines the lives, decisions and challenges faced by transnational sport migrants — those professionals working in the sports industry who cross borders as part of their professional lives. Despite a great deal of romance surrounding international celebrity athletes, the vast majority of transnational sport migrants — players, journalists, coaches, administrators and medical personnel — toil far away from the limelight. Based on twelve years of ethnographic research conducted on three continents, Thomas F. Carter traces their lives, routes and experiences, documenting their travels and travails. He argues that far from the ease of mobility that celebrity sports stars enjoy, the vast majority of transnational sports migrants make huge sacrifices and labor under political restrictions, often enforced by sport’s governing bodies. This unique and clearly written study will make fascinating reading for anthropologists, sociologists and anyone interested in the lives of those who follow their sporting dreams.
Table of Contents:
Preface
Introduction: Sowing Transnational Sport Fields
1. Routes & Strategies of Transnational Sport Migration
2. Striding Across the Fields of Global Sport
3.  Sport and the State: Tensions of Sovereignty and Citizenship
4. NEOsport and the Production of Transnational Sport Migrants
5. Family Matters: risks and costs of mobility
6. Illegal Motion: Undocumented Migration and the Production of Illegality
Closing Comments: Experiencing the Politics of Transnational Sport Migration

New book: Carlos Aldama’s Life in Batá by Umi Vaughan and Carlos Aldama, Indiana University Press

History, music, new book, Religion, traditions and folklore No Comments »
UPDATE: It is a pleasure to announce that Carlos Aldama’s Life in Batá: Cuba, Diaspora, and the Drum, by anthropologist Umi Vaughan and Carlos Aldama, is now available from Indiana University Press, in both paper and hardback.  It seems that there may also be a significant discount available, so in a nice change, this may actually be affordable!  As always, please feel free to send comments and reviews, and congratulations to Umi!

From the publisher’s description:

Batá identifies both the two-headed, hourglass-shaped drum of the Yoruba people and the culture and style of drumming, singing, and dancing associated with it. This book recounts the life story of Carlos Aldama, one of the masters of the batá drum, and through that story traces the history of batá culture as it traveled from Africa to Cuba and then to the United States. For the enslaved Yoruba, batá rhythms helped sustain the religious and cultural practices of a people that had been torn from its roots. Aldama, as guardian of Afro-Cuban music and as a Santería priest, maintains the link with this tradition forged through his mentor Jesus Pérez (Oba Ilu), who was himself the connection to the preserved oral heritage of the older generation. By sharing his stories, Aldama and his student Umi Vaughan bring to light the techniques and principles of batá in all its aspects and document the tensions of maintaining a tradition between generations and worlds, old and new. The book includes rare photographs and access to downloadable audio tracks.

 

Cuba: The Struggle for Consumption by Anna Cristina Pertierra

Consumption & material culture, daily life, new book No Comments »

Within the nexus of recent work on Cuban consumption (for more, see the “consumption & material culture” drop down menu in the sidebar), it is a great pleasure to add this new volume by Anna Cristina Pertierra.  Cuba : The Struggle for Consumption is now available from Caribbean Studies Press (2011).  From the publisher’s description:

For the past 20 years in Cuba, urban life has been characterized by a shortage of material resources, a decline in living standards, and an unpredictable and changing economy. By researching everyday activities in the island’s second-largest city, Santiago de Cuba, this book presents a dynamic portrait of contemporary domestic life and consumer culture in Santiago de Cuba, which Cubans experience as “a struggle.”

This accessible and engaging account, grounded in anthropological analysis, examines the interconnections of consumption, economy, socialism, and gender relations through the stories and experiences of a range of individuals.

 

Music in the Hispanic Caribbean, by Robin Moore (2010)

Cultural production, Globalization, music, new book No Comments »

  In case you have missed it, Robin Moore has a new book exploring the music of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.  Rather than focusing narrowly on a single island nation, the wider Caribbean focus is welcome, and as always, he writes elegantly and succinctly.  And the book includes a sleeve with full-length CD as well!  Music in the Hispanic Caribbean: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture, 2010, Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s description:

The Spanish-speaking islands of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic make up a relatively small region, but their musical and cultural traditions have had a dramatic, sweeping impact on the world. The first brief, stand-alone volume to explore the music of these three islands, Music in the Hispanic Caribbean provides a vibrant introduction to diverse musical styles including salsa, merengue, reggaeton, plena, Latin jazz, and the bolero.

Ethnomusicologist Robin Moore employs three themes in his survey of Hispanic Caribbean music:

  • The cultural legacy of the slave trade
  • The creolization of Caribbean musical styles
  • Diaspora, migration, and movement

Each theme lends itself to a discussion of the region’s traditional musical genres as well as its more contemporary forms. The author draws on his extensive regional fieldwork, offering accounts of local performances, interviews with key performers, and vivid illustrations.

A compelling, comprehensive review, Music in the Hispanic Caribbean is ideal for introductory undergraduate courses in world music or ethnomusicology and for upper-level courses on Caribbean and Latin American music and/or culture.

Packaged with a 70-minute CD containing musical examples, the text features numerous listening activities that actively engage students with the music. The companion website (www.oup.com/us/globalmusic) includes supplementary materials for instructors.

Mette Berg, Diasporic Generations: Memory, Politics, and Nation among Cubans in Spain

greater Cuba, new book 1 Comment »

It is a great pleasure to present Mette Berg’s new book, Diasporic Generations: Memory, Politics, and Nation (Berghan Books 2011) among Cubans in Spain.  Many of us know  Mette either personally or through her articles, and have found her particular ethnographic  focus–Cubans residing in Spain–to greatly enrich the conventional centering of the diaspora around Miami.

from the publisher’s website:

“Highlighting key generational differences, dynamics and trajectories, Mette Louise Berg’s work adds an exceptionally significant approach to studies on diasporas and transnational migration. Her case study of Cubans in Spain also interestingly reflects deep changes in Cuban society over a number of decades. By way of developing a more comprehensive understanding of these topics, this book is essential reading for students and advanced scholars alike.”  ·  Steve Vertovec, Max-Planck-Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity

Mette Louise Berg’s work is a productive, insightful, and timely intervention in the study of the Cuban diaspora and other contemporary transnational movements…an original and substantial contribution to the scholarly literature on migration.  ·  Jorge Duany, University of Puerto Rico

…well-written and intelligent, and deals with the Cuban diaspora in Spain, about which little is known. The author excellently locates her study within interesting general literature on memory, homelands, nationalism, and diasporas…it is superb.”  ·  Susan Eckstein, Boston University

Interpretations of the background to the Cuban diaspora – a political revolution and the subsequent radical transformation of the society and economy towards socialism – are politicised and highly contested. The Miami-based Cuban diaspora has had extraordinary success in putting its case high on the US political agenda and in capturing world media attention, but in the process the multiplicity of experiences within the diaspora has been overshadowed. This book gives voice to diasporic Cubans living in Spain, the former colonial ruler of Cuba. By focusing on their lived experiences of displacement, the book brings to light imaginative, narrative re-creations of the nation from afar. Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, the book argues that the Cuban diaspora in Spain consists of three diasporic generations, generated through distinct migratory experiences. This constitutes an important step forward in understanding the dynamics of memory-making and social differentiation within diasporas, and in appreciating why people within the same diaspora engage in different modes of transnational practices and homeland relations.

Mette Louise Berg is a lecturer in the anthropology of migration at the University of Oxford. Her research focuses on memory, diaspora, transnationalism and intergenerational dynamics.

Table of Contents after the jump:

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new book by Carlos Uxo

new book No Comments »

New book by Carlos Uxó González: Representaciones del personaje del negro en la narrativa cubana. Una
perspectiva desde los estudios subalternos
. Madrid: Verbum, 2010.

Partiendo de los parámetros teóricos del Grupo Latinoamericano de Estudios Subalternos, este libro se propone ilustrar los modos en que la narrativa cubana ha reflejado y contribuido a perpetuar el estatus subalterno de los afrocubanos. El libro ofrece un análisis de la trayectoria literaria cubana, culminando con la generación de los Novísimos, en la pasada década de los 90 y principios del siglo XXI. Como Uxó demuestra a través de una adaptación original y altamente sugerente de las contribuciones teóricas en el campo de la lingüística de Roman Jacobson, esta generación continúa excluyendo y subalternizando a los afrocubanos. Pero hasta alcanzar tal conclusión, Uxó llama la atención sobre la obra de autores como Martín Morúa Delgado, Lydia Cabrera, Alejo Carpentier, Manuel Granados y Novísimos como Amir Valle, Jesús Curbelo, Marcial Gala, Mylene Fernández, Alberto Garrido o Ronaldo Menéndez. De tal modo, y al mostrar los modos narrativos de representación que hacen que la voz del subalterno resulte inaudible, este libro claramente alcanza una de las metas que se proponía el Grupo Latinoamericano de Estudios Subalternos.

 

¡Venceremos? The Erotics of Black Self-making in Cuba by Jafari S. Allen

By Paul Ryer, Gender & sexuality, new book, Race 1 Comment »

It is a great pleasure to announce the forthcoming ¡Venceremos? The Erotics of Black Self-making in Cuba, by Jafari Sinclair Allen, Duke University Press.  Due out in August, 2011, here is the press’s  book description:

Promoting the revolutionary socialist project of equality and dignity for all, the slogan ¡Venceremos! (We shall overcome!) appears throughout Cuba, everywhere from newspapers to school murals to nightclubs. Yet the accomplishments of the Cuban state are belied by the stark inequalities apparent in the marginalization of blacks, the prejudice against sexual minorities, and gender inequities. ¡Venceremos? is a groundbreaking ethnography on race, desire, and belonging among black Cubans in the early twenty-first-century, as the nation opens its economy to global capital. Expanding on Audre Lorde’s vision of embodied, even “useful,” desire, Jafari S. Allen shows how black Cubans engage in acts of “erotic self-making,” reinterpreting, transgressing, and potentially transforming racialized and sexualized interpellations of their identities. He illuminates intimate spaces of autonomy created by people whose multiply subaltern identities have rendered them illegible to state functionaries, and to most scholars. In everyday practices, events, and sites in Havana and Santiago de Cuba—including Santeria rituals, gay men’s parties, hip hop concerts, the tourist-oriented sex trade, lesbian organizing, HIV education, and just hanging out—Allen highlights small but significant acts in struggles for autonomy and dignity.

Congratulations to Dr. Allen, and stay posted for an update once the book is available.  I, for one, look forward to seeing the analytic of Cuban erotics move beyond the classic 19th century frame of Kutzinski’s Sugar’s Secrets, and into the present day!

Activating The Past—event and edited volume

By Paul Ryer, History, new book No Comments »

Now that I am wrapping up teaching–over 1,000 students this year!–what better way to get back to scholarly work than to attend the launch of a volume showcasing Cuba and providing the opportunity to meet, or catch up with, contributors and editors.

The book, Activating The Past: Historical Memory in the Black Atlantic World, Cambridge Scholars Press, 2010, is edited by Andrew Apter and Robin Derby.  Perhaps because it is not yet available in paper, it may not be familiar to some readers, but it should be, since many of the essays prominently place Cuban history and ethnography within an inter-Atlantic conversation.  Thus, for instance, the first chapter, by Stephan Palmié: “Ekpe/Abakuá in Middle Passage: Time, Space and Units of Analysis in African American Historical Anthropology.”  There are also Cuba-centered chapters by art historian  Judith Bettelheim, “Espiritismo Altars in Puerto Rico and Cuba: The Indian and the Congo,” and Carrie Viarnes, “Muñecas and Memoryscapes: Negotiating Identity and History in Cuban Espiritismo.”  Surely, however, the broader value of the volume is in (re)emplacing Cuba within wider currents, histories, and movements.

As an event, the launch (at UCLA’s African Studies Center) provided an opportunity to speak with Professors Apter and Derby, as well as Judith Bettelheim and several other contributors.  I was particularly struck by Professor Bettelheim’s description of the way in which her chapter built from one particularly startling archived photograph (see Activating The Past, p. 299), circa 1860, in which two performers are wearing feathered headdresses.  Clearly, art historians are very, very skilled at image analysis, and perhaps we ethnographers would be well advised to study those methods or collaborate with art historians in some contexts.  In any case, get your library to order this book, and take a look at it.

 

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