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Archive for February, 2016

“…banal forms of nationalism and a sense of national identity are likely to strengthen rather than weaken over the next ten years.” (Malesevic, 2013)

A couple key nationalism theorists provide validation of food’s potential for stirring nationalist sentiments. In his Banal Nationalism (1995), Michael Billig raises the everyday backdrop of our lives, which he sees as being sprinkled with national symbols. He argues that quotidian images, signs, phrases, flags etc. which represent  a nation’s values and identity provide sort of glaze, if you will, over the broader concept of nation. It’s worth blending Malesevic in here — in beginning of his Identity as Ideology (2006), he notes that identity has become an”indispensable ingredient of every human being”and that “nationalism remains the most potent source of state legitimacy.” Thus, food folds its way into nationalism: branding of food, histories of food, specific recipes or versions of recipes, etc. all can flavour how a person sees, represents, and defends their national identity. This post will assess a few recent programmes and notable events soaked in food-related “British identity” and banal nationalism. Bon Appétit.

Supermarket nationalism: ‘British beef’ in England vs. ‘Scottish oatcakes’ in Scotland

A Scottish national identity can be seen in how products in supermarkets are labelled. It is much more likely to find a product labelled ‘Scottish’ in Scotland, than it is to find something labelled ‘English’ in England. South of the border, ‘British’ is often the  word used for the products. This is proved simply by doing a search on Google images. When searching for ‘English’ and ‘Lidl’, only products labelled ‘British’ appear, as ‘British beef’, ‘British potatoes’ and so on. If you do the same with ‘Scottish’ and ‘Lidl’, several products pop up labelled ‘Scottish’ and often have a remarkably sized Scottish flag on them as well.

These findings comply with the differences between the English and the Scots when asked if they identify more as British or Scottish/English. When Brits were asked this question in 2007, 47% of the English felt more English than British, whereas 38% felt more British than English. In Scotland, as many as 77% felt more Scottish than British, and only 14% felt more British than Scottish (Bechhofer & McCrone 2014: 311). Thus, it can seem that, at least until recently, Scots have had a stronger Scottish identity than the English have with English identity. This can be one of the explanations for the differences of product labelling in the two nations.

Lee and Copus have also suggested that the emphasis on ‘Britishness’ in England partly is due to a deliberate policy of suppressing English political identity in favour of being British. (Bechhofer & McCrone 2014: 313). According to them, the British state could not survive such an expression of national identity.Tunnocks-Tea-Cakes.jpg

No matter the reason for the national differences in product labelling policies, the importance of ‘Scottish products’ to Scots was highlighted when famous Scottish cake and biscuits company Tunnock’s decided to remove the Scottish Lion Rampant from their packaging (Alexander 5/1/2016). The company also started calling their cake ‘The Great British Tea Cake’. This angered many Scottish nationalists, who understood this as Tunnock’s were abandoning their Scottish identity. Many even called for a boycott of the company. This incident shows that there is a form of ‘supermarket nationalism’ among Scottish nationalists – labelling of Scottish grocery products as being Scottish with symbols representing ‘Scottishness’ seems to be an important part of their national pride and identity. ‘Britishness’ is, to them, undermining this identity.

Nationalism in BBC Cooking Shows

In his Imagined Communities (1983), Anderson describes national consciousness forming as a result of people across a wide range of physical space being able to consume the same information and stories. The novel and the newspaper aside, societies now have film and television to inform their nation-view. In BBC cooking programmes, such as MasterChef, Jamie’s Great Britain, Great British Bake Off, and James Martin: Home Comforts, one finds all sorts of banal nationalism. “British” recipes and local ingredients are often chosen and chefs will sometimes provide a story about the dish’s roots in British history. Often the kitchen backdrop will be designed to “look British” and will include Union Jacks. Recipes that have existed in the UK for over 50 years, but have origins in another nation generally keep their “not-British” identity, while their flavours can inform “new British” cuisine. Watch any episode of a food programme on the BBC and one could compile a list of instances of banal nationalism. Moving beyond, however, this topic illuminates questions about who is British if one is using food to define identity.

In the last couple of years there has been discussion in various news articles and online blogs about the “contemporary  multicultural Britishness” portrayed in Great British Bake bake_2332965b.jpgOff. Last year, a Muslim woman was crowned best baker. Some were pleased with this, stating that it forced viewers to reconsider Britishness. Others have been less amused, accusing  Great British Bake Off of trying to push a “multicultural agenda” onto viewers by intentionally choosing diverse contestants who do not represent the average Brit. Those once, and sometime still, considered “not British” are now on the Great British Bake Off stage, making sponges, puddings, and fairy cakes in aim of being awarded best baker. In being able to allow “non-British” people to show their Britishness by baking perfect scones, food plays a divisive role in defining national identity and challenges people to think about what it means to be British.

One final tidbit to think about is that many other countries have adapted their own versions of Great British Bake Off, tweaking the recipes, kitchen sets, etc. to fit their nation’s identity, whatever that may look like or mean. See more here and here.

Anglo-Indian Cuisine: A Multicultural Victory?

In 2001, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook asserted that Chicken Tikka Masala had become “a true British national dish, not only because it is the most popular, but because it is a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts external influences. Chicken Tikka is an Indian dish. The Masala sauce was added to satisfy the desire of British customers” (Buettner 2008). This statement identified the South Asian dining industry as such a massive force that it had seemingly earned inclusion into British national identity.

Indeed, one can likely walk down most streets in Edinburgh and stumble upon an Indian-styled restaurant within a few minutes. As an industry that employs close to 70,000 people and reports an annual turnover of approximately £2 billion, South Asian specialities have eclipsed other ethnic cuisines in the UK. As of 2015, there are estimated to be 9500 “Indian” restaurants in the UK, whereas there are merely 4700 Italian establishments (Federation of Specialist Restaurants). Balti curry, first developed in Birmingham, is another example of an Anglo-Indian dish that is now considered “British” cuisine.

While many Britons enjoy “going for an Indian,” the vast majority of curry restaurants are actually staffed by Pakistani and Bangladeshi people, and though the British capacity to absorb and adapt external influences has extended to South Asian food, it may not have extended entirely to South Asian people. In a series of surveys conducted in 2009, Vadher and Barrett found that many second generation British Indians and Pakistanis considered themselves British mostly in a legal context, with their white British cohabitants constantly reminding them of their true ethnic identity through discrimination, racism, and jokes (Vadher & Barrett 2009: 444). As Cook celebrated multiculturalism in Britain with his speech about Chicken Tikka Masala, he may have assumed too much about the nature of ethnicity.

— Jordan, Simen, and Taylor


Questions

Do you usually choose products produced in the country you are buying it in when shopping at the supermarket? Why do you choose this way? Would you have a different pattern in your own country?

Do British cooking programmes make you feel more connected to Britishness?

Can food enable a people to breach the boundaries of ethnicity?

Are scones more British than Chicken Tikka Masala? / Why might people think scones are more British than Chicken Tikka Masala?

Can a food be a synecdoche for a nation?

Is national identity undermined when a nation’s “national foods” are not consumed by its citizens?


Sources

Alexander, S. 5/1/2016. ‘Cybernats Call for Boycott of Tunnock’s Tea Cakes for Ditching Scottish Lion’, The Telegraph [Online] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/food-and-drink/news/cybernats-call-for-boycott-of-tunnocks-tea-cakes-for-ditching-sc/

Anderson, Benedict. 2006 [1983]. Imagined Communities. London: Verso.

Bechhofer, F. & D. McCrone. 2014. ‘The End of Being British?’ Scottish Affairs 23.3: 309-322

Billig, M. (1995). Banal Nationalism. London: Sage.

Buettner, E. (2008). “Going for an Indian”: South Asian Restaurants and the Limits of Multiculturalism in Britain*. The Journal of Modern History, 80(4), 865-901. Retrieved February 28, 2016.

Federation of Specialist Restaurants. “Statistics & Data.” (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2016, from http://www.fedrest.com/marketresearch.htm

Malesevic, S. (2006)  Identity as Ideology: Understanding Ethnicity and Nationalism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Malesevic, S. (2013). Future Identities: Changing identities in the UK – the next 10 years

Smith, A. D. (2001). Nationalism: Theory, Ideology, History. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Vadher, K., & Barrett, M. (2009). Boundaries of Britishness in British Indian and Pakistani young adults. J. Community. Appl. Soc. Psychol. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 19(6), 442-458. Retrieved February 28, 2016.

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Ashwini Vasanthakumar (University of York), “On the Moral Permissibility of Outsourcing Border Control”
2.15
 Chrystal MacMillan Building
3-4.30pm
Wednesday March 2 2016

This paper explores intrinsic arguments against privatising immigration enforcement, as opposed to the contingent normative problems that most exercise public commentary and criticism. It focuses on two forms of privatisation: outsourcing immigration detention to private security companies and outsourcing border control to civilian gatekeepers. It reconstructs Alon Harel’s arguments against privatisation as such, and argues that there is a continuum between public and private agents and reasons. Even if there are inherently public goods, only some forms of privatisation are precluded.

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Historical narratives and collective memories are frequently cited as requirements or components that help constitute a nation. They help create group solidarity and cohesion by suggesting that memories and history are shared between past, present, and future members of a nation (Calhoun 1993, p.232).

 

National histories and identities are the product of cultural production (through museums, literature, art, and even historiography) and there are a variety of arguments about the role nationalists play in their creation and propagation. The historian Eric Hobsbawm holds that national cultures have often been synthesized in a top down manner, ‘invented’, in order to promote group loyalty (Hearn 2006, p.70). Benedict Anderson, meanwhile, views culture as vital for helping imagine a community: for example, the chapter ‘Census, Map, Museum’ in the 1991 edition of Imagined Communities highlights the role of museums in colonial-era South East Asia as laying the foundations for practices that give national identities ‘infinite reproducibility’ (1991, p.225).

 

From the perspective of memory studies, past events are made understandable via their framing in particular representations and images (Irwin-Zarecka 2008, p.4, 54). However, while particular stories and ideas about national histories may be given tangible expression in museums and memorials with great symbolic value, collective memory is rarely a complete picture. It has been claimed that the term ‘collective’ falsely implies consensus about dominant narratives when memory and remembrance, particularly with regards to ‘traumatic’ memories, are in fact highly contested by those outside and within national groupings (Freidman and Kenney 2005).

 

Silencing and forgetting can be just as politically charged as acts of remembering, the cases below highlighting the variety of ways in which countries have discussed, revised, or downplayed aspects of national history. As noted by Craig Calhoun, even Ernst Renan recognised historical error and deliberate forgetting as ‘crucial’ in forging a national identity (1993, p.225). Indeed, memories of violence and trauma that play into a narrative of national suffering have frequently shaped or been used to justify political acts in the present, particularly when narratives assign particular roles of aggressor and victim (Kosicki and Jasinka-Kania 2007). For instance, Serb nationalist narratives in the run up to the Yugoslav Wars gave a prominent role to the Battle of Kosovo, a justification for particular actions (Gödl 2007).

 

Nationalism, history, and memory are deeply intertwined, no more so than in memorials and acts of remembering around conflicts that have seen blood spilt in the name of the nation. The three cases below examine a variety of practices with regards to WWII.

 

 

  1. Japan and the Yasukuni Shrine

 

“Currently, more than 2,466,000 divinities are enshrined here at Yasukuni Shrine. These are souls of men who made ultimate sacrifice for their nation since 1853 during national crisis such as the Boshin War, the Seinan War, the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars, World War I, the Manchurian Incident, the China Incident and the Greater East Asian War (World War II). These people, regardless of their rank or social standing, are considered to be completely equal and worshipped as venerable divinities of Yasukuni. Japanese people believe that their respect to and awe of the deceased is best expressed by treating the dead in the same manner as they were alive. Hence, at Yasukuni Shrine, rituals to offer meals and to dedicate words of appreciation to the dead are repeated every day.” (Yasukuni Shrine 2008).

 

Yasukuni Shrine, a source of perennial tension between Japan and its East Asian neighbors, is perhaps among the most well-known war memorial in the world. It was first founded by Emperor Meiji to commemorate anyone who had died in service of the country. In 1978, 14 Japanese Class A war criminals of WWII were enshrined in at Yasukuni in a secret ceremony. Since then, many Japanese Prime Ministers have paid visits to Yasukuni Shrine, frequently leading to international condemnation.

 

While Japanese government officials explain that visiting the Yasukuni Shrine is due to the respect to the dead, it has also become a focal point for right-wing Japanese nationalists to mobilize around (Blackburn and Lim 1999, pp.323-323). In particular, the promotion of historical narratives that portray Japanese military actions during WWII as being against western colonialism and liberating the rest of Asia is often bound up in discussions of the shrine. The Yushukan Museum that sits close by the Shrine, and recent school textbooks have also been seen as key sites that forward this ‘liberation’ view as part of Japan’s WWII narrative, derided by some visitors as propaganda (O’Dwyer 2010; Fallows 2014).

 

‘The ways that Japanese people interact with their Asian neighbors, attitudes toward conflicts in other parts of the globe, nuclear issues, and attitudes concerning the core symbols of Japanese nationhood — the flag, emperor, national anthem, constitution and Japan’s wider global role — are all inextricably linked to memories and interpretations of Japan’s wartime past. The war has not been forgotten. Quite the opposite, the Japanese seem unable to let it go.’ (Seaton 2007).

 

Many scholars argue that among the Japanese public, ‘the war has not been forgotten’. Although the government are involved in the retelling of history, public views are varied. According to Seaton (2007), there is a wide range of hard-to-reconcile war memories, including: (1) an “I don’t know or care” line; (2) a “progressive” line which makes the case for serious apologies and accepting responsibility of atrocities perpetrated under the flag of Imperial Japan; (3) a “progressive-leaning” line espoused by the Democratic Party, which largely concurs with the progressive line; (4) a “conservative” line espoused by actors like the central government, which admits war guilt but insists that Japan has apologized and made amends to the satisfaction of all victimized governments; and (5) a right-wing– nationalist line which holds that Japanese war aims and conduct were altruistic and beneficial to Asians.

 

The defeat of Japan in WWII has seen older generations in Japan choose to be silent while younger generations have asked questions about the war. This has, to some extent, given governments cause to educate later generations with a particular set of collective war memories that are not necessarily supported by all Japanese citizens. It is a serious question as to whether or not this has been pursued to rebuild a sense of national pride and patriotism, and redressing the idea that Japan is a ‘land without Patriots’ (Tamamoto 2001).

 

  1. War Memory, Movies and Nationalism in Germany

 

  1. From taboo to unavoidable topic: rethinking the Nazi regime and the Second World War in 1950-60s.

 

In the first few years after the WWII, economic reconstruction was the core task for the German government and public. There was a widespread view that the war and crimes against humanity were only related to Hitler and his Nazi regime. However, cultural elites began rethinking the war, stimulating public discussion via essays, books and movies. One of the most famous movie is ‘The Murderers Are Among Us’ (1946, by Wolfgang Staudte). The public realized how deeply the Nazi Germany hurt civilians in other countries. Several agencies were established by the government to investigate crimes in Nazi era, such as The Central Office of the State Justice Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes (1958).

 

  1. Debating, apologizing and understanding the 1933-1945 history from later 1960s.

One of the typical events that shows the attitude of German government was the Warschauer Kniefall in 1970. Willy Brandt, the chancellor of West Germany, knelt down in Warsaw to show his apology to victims in Poland. A few years later, with the releasing of an American TV series, the Holocaust (1978, directed by Marvin J. Chomsky and created by Gerald Green), the public began to debate that the role of common people in Nazi era and to what extent they should be responsible for the crimes. In the 1980s, the German public agreed that the whole German nation should take responsibility for crimes in WWII, although many were also victims of Nazi regime. Declaring the Nazi’s offenses is the duty of German nation and this is the best way to remember the history and restoring the honor of nation. President Weizsäcker’s famous speech for the 40th anniversary of the end of the WWII (1985) showed this attitude: ‘the 8th of May was a day of liberation. It liberated all of us from the inhumanity and tyranny of the National-Socialist regime.’

Movies and novels after German reunification also inherited the tradition of rethinking and examining Germany’s past. ‘The Downfall’, or ‘Der Untergang’ (2004, by Oliver Hirschbiegel) described the last days of Nazi Germany and ‘The Stalingrad’ (1993, by Joseph Vilsmaier) showed the ‘true’ daily life of German soldiers in eastern front. The ‘Die Welle’ (2008, by Dennis Gansel) seems to be the peak of such introspective movies. It sought to reveal the ‘magic power’ of Nazi ideology by having the blind obedience of young students closely mirror what German public did in Hitler’s era.

 

  1. RAF Bomber Command

 

The controversy around the construction of the Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command Memorial is arguably rooted in the World War II tactics of the Air Force. German civilians were a prime target of Allied bombing, but at the time, these attacks were considered justifiable under the Just War Tradition as it was in retaliation to German attacks on British soil (Lammers, 1991). However, the controversy around the memorial generally centers around later bombings, when it was becoming clear that the war was won and the bombings could no longer be justifiable as retaliatory. Attacks on German cities, such as Dresden in 1945, are considered by some as war crimes, and Pacifist organisations had demonstrated against a memorial in Lincoln Cathedral in 2006, well before the unveiling of the 2012 Memorial in Green Park (Smith, 2006).

 

The larger issues surrounding the memorial are not only the allegations of ‘war crimes’, but also debates about who is considered the victim and who is the aggressor. This is not only linked to the British memory of WWII, but also to the German one. Sebald (2002) wrote that “(t)he darkest aspects of the final act of destruction, as experienced by the great majority of the German population, remained under a kind of taboo like a shameful family secret.” Even though the British had committed acts of horrible suffering on the Germans, they do not consider themselves to be the aggressor, even if today’s critics would argue that the later bombings were unjustifiable. Britain, with its war memorial, has chosen to remember bomber command pilots as heroes: pilots who lost their lives during the war. But there has been little mention of such things as the bombing of Hamburg in 1943 which killed forty thousand German civilians (Childers, 2005).

 

The delaying of the construction of the Bomber Command Memorial until 2012 shows how controversial RAF bombing tactics had been at the time of the conflict, and still continue to be for decades after the war. Douglas Hudson, a veteran pilot of WWII, had been told after his service to take the Bomber Command off his CV, as it would “harm his job prospects” (Smith, 2006). Moreover, the bombing of Germany might not even have been justifiable even after the Blitzkrieg, as it success in Great Britain was not overwhelmingly achieved (Werrell, 1986). Even Winston Churchill, who had praised the use of bombers during the war, failed (allegedly on purpose) to mention their service when the war was won (Harrison, 2012), even though most discussions about the bombings endorsed them during the war (Lammers, 1991).

 

The British (and certainly not only the British) remember WWII not for episodes of unjust aggression on German civilians, but as a war to end Nazi aggression and Hitler’s dictatorial terror and domination; a Just War against aggression. Meanwhile, the Green Park memorial has created a site that revives debates about silencing and forgetting, remembering and memorialisation, particularly concerning violence is perpetrated in the name of the nation is remembered and made part of collective memory.

 

References

Anderson, B. (1991). Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (Verso).

 

Blackburn, K., and Lim, E. (1999). ‘The Japanese War Memorials of Singapore: Monuments of Commemoration and Symbols of Japanese Imperial Ideology’ in South East Asia Research Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 321-340.

 

Calhoun, C. (1993). ‘Nationalism and Ethnicity’ in Annual Review of Sociology Vol. 19 pp. 211-239.

 

Childers, T. (2005). ‘”Facilis descensus averni est”: The Allied Bombing of Germany and the Issue of German Suffering’ in Central European History, Vol. 38, No. 1, pp. 75-105.

 

Fallows, J. (2014). ‘Stop talking about Yasukuni: the real problem is Yushukan’ in The Atlantic [online]. Available from: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/01/stop-talking-about-yasukuni-the-real-problem-is-y-sh-kan/282757/ [Accessed 23/02/2016].

 

Freidman, M.P., and Kenney, P. (2005). History is Politics’ in ‘Partisan Histories: The Past in Contemporary Global Politics’ eds. Max Paul Freidman and Padraic Kenney. (Palgrave Macmillan). pp.1-14.

 

Gödl, Doris. (2007). ‘Challenging the Past: Serbian and Croation Aggressor–Victim Narratives’ in International Journal of Sociology Vol. 37 No. 1 pp. 43-57.

 

Harrison, P. (2012). War Dead From Bomber Command Honoured [online]. Available from: http://news.sky.com/story/953481/war-dead-from-bomber-command-honoured [Accessed 23/02/2016].

 

Hearn, Jonathan. (2006). Nationalism: A Critical Introduction (Palgrave Macmillan).

Irwin-Zarecka. Iwona. 2008. ‘Frames of Remembrance: The Dynamics of Collective Memory’. (Transaction Publishers).

 

Lammers, S.E. (1991) ‘William Temple and the Bombing of Germany: An Exploration in the Just War Tradition’ in The Journal of Religious Ethics, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 71-92.

 

O’Dwyer, S. (2010). ‘The Yasukuni Shrine and the Competing Patriotic Pasts of East Asia’ in History and Memory Vol. 22 No. 2 pp. 147-177.

 

Seaton, P.A. (2007). Japan’s Contested War Memories (Routledge).

 

Sebald, W.G (2002). A Natural History of Destruction. The New Yorker, pp. 66-77.

Smith, D. (2006). ‘RAF tribute stirs up ‘war crime’ storm’ [online]. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2006/aug/20/secondworldwar.warcrimes [Accessed 23/02/2016].

 

Tamamoto, M. (2001). ‘A Land without Patriots: The Yasukuni Controversy and Japanese Nationalism’ in World Policy Journal Vol. 18 No. 3 pp. 33-40.

 

Werrel, K.P. (1986). ‘The Strategic Bombing of Germany in World War II: Costs and Accomplishments’ in The Journal of American History, Vol. 73, No. 3, pp. 702-713.

 

Yasukuni Shrine (2008). ‘History’ [online]. Available from: http://www.yasukuni.or.jp/english/about/index.html [Accessed 23/02/2016].

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s not the British who want to leave the EU — it’s the historically successful and newly nationalistic English. Interesting article in Foreign Policy. Read article here.

England Fans Prepare For Tomorrow's World Cup Crunch Match Against Slovenia

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National Atmospheres and the Funeral of Margaret Thatcher

Dr Angharad Closs Stephens

1730-1830, Thursday 3rd March, Clement House (CLM), Room 3.07, London School of Economics

How is nationality experienced as an affect, atmosphere or mood? At this first ASEN Seminar Series event of 2016, Dr Angharad Closs Stephens will present a paper which asks what it means to think about nationality as a set of feelings circling in the air, congealing around particular objects and materials, and echoing as part of an assemblage, through the event of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral held in London on 17 April 2013.

State funerals form key sites through which the state makes manifest its majesty and where we might experience sovereignty as an ‘aura’. Drawing on field-notes from the event, the paper addresses how ‘those little experiences of feeling part of a collective ‘we’ attach to procession, ceremony, banners, colours, gestures and military culture, making us feel that we’re a nation united in time.

The paper then turns to critical, creative engagements with the funeral, specifically by performance artist Tim Etchells and novelist Hilary Mantel, which form different attempts at interrupting the claim that ‘we’re all Thatcherites now’ (PM David Cameron). In engaging these attempts at invoking other feelings, the author asks how might national affects, atmospheres and moods be disrupted.

To reserve a place at this event please RSVP to the Seminar Series Chair, Iro, at seminars@asen.ac.uk

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Eve de Kalaf flyer

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CfP_extended_CHS17_2016_RefugeeHeritage

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