Author Topic: some thoughts on cultural appropriation  (Read 91698 times)

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Offline Drunken Idaho

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #615 on: April 17, 2017, 01:04:52 PM »
If you aren't Indian, it's not okay to walk around wearing a sari and henna or a bindi just because you think it's pretty.

Inevitably, you'd have some Indians saying, "I'm happy to see other cultures wearing this fashion because I love it," and others would say, "it's wrong for non-Indian folks to wear that fashion because it represents my culture, not theirs."

If you personally want to avoid causing the negative feelings in that second person, I totally respect that--but I don't think their offense is worth more than the first person's joy--so at the very least, I don't think one can judge this specific example of CA as okay or not or okay.

On the other hand, I might be ignorant about this--so if I learned that a large majority of Indian folks would think it rude for non-Indians to wear traditionally Indian fashion, then I'd probably avoid it out of politeness.
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Offline D4M10N

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #616 on: April 17, 2017, 01:07:33 PM »
There is a beauty shop not far from me which offers henna designs, eyebrow threading, and other beauty enhancements learned from a particular culture, one neither indigenous to the area nor particularly well-represented among the local demographics. Are they wrong to offer these services to white women?

EDIT: Does it matter where/how the artist/proprietor grew up?
« Last Edit: April 17, 2017, 01:18:10 PM by D4M10N »

Offline Nosmas

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #617 on: April 17, 2017, 01:11:09 PM »
I wanted to restate the last sentence.

It's not a thing that's easy to define, but it really boils down to this: treat other cultures with respect. If you are interested in participating in a certain culture, you should pay attention to how you are participating and make an effort to know whether your participation is respectful or not. That burden is on you. Also, don't take ownership of it, or expect that you are automatically invited and/or entitled to be warmly welcomed and educated.

And I don't agree that we need an invite to participate in expressions which originate from other cultures, but that's why this is such a good topic for discussion.

I agree with you that it really does boil down to trying not to be a jerk--it's just that what consists of acting like a jerk varies widely by individual ethics and philosophy.

Maybe not in all cases. But, for example, wearing traditional clothing. If you get invited to an Indian wedding, it's okay to wear a sari and henna or other traditional clothing. If you aren't Indian, it's not okay to walk around wearing a sari and henna or a bindi just because you think it's pretty.

Interesting that you use that example. I'd be curious to know what you think of the real life example I gave of this in post #607.

To summarize, my aunt is white but has been married to an Indian man for 30 years and wears Indian clothing occasionally. Her daughter looks white and does the same but actually is part Indian.
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Offline Drunken Idaho

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #618 on: April 17, 2017, 01:12:14 PM »
Interesting that you use that example. I'd be curious to know what you think of the real life example I gave of this in post #607.

To summarize, my aunt is white but has been married to an Indian man for 30 years and wears Indian clothing occasionally. Her daughter looks white and does the same but actually is part Indian.

It's a long thread, but search back because 6equj5 also has personal experience with this subject for your consideration.
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Offline Nosmas

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #619 on: April 17, 2017, 01:23:26 PM »
Interesting that you use that example. I'd be curious to know what you think of the real life example I gave of this in post #607.

To summarize, my aunt is white but has been married to an Indian man for 30 years and wears Indian clothing occasionally. Her daughter looks white and does the same but actually is part Indian.

It's a long thread, but search back because 6equj5 also has personal experience with this subject for your consideration.

I do not remember seeing that, but upon checking the post history I see the example is extremely related to his or her own personal experience. I'll read all of 6equj5's replies to see it's been already answered. If not I'm now even more interested in hearing a response. Thanks for pointing that out.
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Offline 6EQUJ5

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #620 on: April 17, 2017, 03:08:22 PM »
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I kind of did answer it. I'm half Indian but I look white. I sometimes wear Indian clothing if I'm going to a family party that involves the members of my family who are more connected the Indian culture that wears traditional clothing. Incidentally some of my relatives come from a part of India that was conquered AND religiously converted and so they wore western apparel even when they grew up in India as people who were ethnically Indian- not people of European ancestry born there. I love Indian clothing and I own some, but I don't wear it around alone because I feel extremely conscious of the fact that I look like a white person trying to dress like an Indian person, even though I'm as Indian as I am white. As far as my family/friends here and in India are concerned, I'm aware of a sensitivity about appropriation- I'm aware of white people using Indian clothing (which sometimes gets incorrectly mixed with middle eastern culture- similar to how Katy Perry mixed up Chinese and Japanese in her Geisha video) as costume or bindis as decoration and aware of the fact that it kind of bothers my Indian peeps in contexts where it's people just doing it without being invited to a wedding because they often do it wrong or in the wrong context or mix it with other cultures in a way that comes off as uninformed and it feels kind of irritating to see. I am also aware of the fact Indians have different social issues here in the US as one of the "model minorities," but who still are subject to all kinds of other types of implicit bias and that there is a really strong pressure to assimilate. The strongest pressure to assimilate is in accents. The Indian accent is horrifically portrayed (see Apu from the Simpsons) in western pop culture, and there are a lot of other things that go along with that that are subtle but also deeply problemmatic- Indian men are seen as the butt of jokes and unattractive: you almost never see an Indian male lead in something, they are usually the sidekick or comedic relief (see Rajesh Koothrapali from big bang theory). Wearing Sikh dastaar (turbans) have become a bit of a joke and people wear them and there are a zillion jokes about turbans and how they look silly and or like what terrorists wear... even though it's an Indian thing and not a thing in the middle east. Younger Indian women are more often portrayed as mysterious or exotic, and clothing elements that go along with that add to the mystical Eastern stereotype that gets built up, and white women have (especially in the 90s) worn bindis combined with makeup that builds into this, there was an attempt to achieve an exotic look. Part of the model minority thing is that Indians are also generally known for less muckraking and quiet assimilation, but trust me when I say that bristling over white folks wearing Indian clothing happens when such conversations are safe to have.

This white woman who married an Indian man and had a half-Indian daughter likely understands her husband's culture and is then part of that Indian family and probably has a respectful way of going about wearing Indian clothing. That said, I would hope that she would understand- the way I understand, that if you do it in a certain context, people won't necessarily realize that you are (in my case) Indian (and in her case deeply tied by family), and it may come off as appropriation. White-passing people (& white people marrying) in families of color is an extremely complicated issue by itself.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2017, 06:03:01 PM by 6EQUJ5 »
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Offline RGU

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #621 on: April 17, 2017, 04:17:08 PM »
Through all of this, not one person has answered the questions that out this "problem" on an international setting.
Do those of you who believe that CA is an issue go up to people int heir native countries and tell them not to do things because ot hurts your feelings.
Do you tel a Japanese man not to sing country and wear a cowboy hat

If not, why not?

Online Harry Black

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #622 on: April 17, 2017, 04:33:22 PM »
Through all of this, not one person has answered the questions that out this "problem" on an international setting.
Do those of you who believe that CA is an issue go up to people int heir native countries and tell them not to do things because ot hurts your feelings.
Do you tel a Japanese man not to sing country and wear a cowboy hat

If not, why not?
I dont 'go up' to people anyway. Nor do I tell white people not to have dreadlocks.
The context is different for nations that have been conquered however. For example Korean and Chinese people may feel pretty sore about Japanese people using parts of their cultures inappropriately due to the pretty bitter history there, but Japan very much underwent a traumatic occupation by western powers where foreign culture was pretty much impressed on them so I would certainly be sympathetic to them exploring that.
But if an actual cowboy (who are VERY few and far between) was there and got miffed about their portrayal of his livelyhood and specific culture while denying him citizenship (which Japan tends to do).
I doubt they would care, but thats a seperate issue.
Likewise, african american culture is not treated with great care in Japan (or wasnt last time I was there) so I could see an african american getting a bit annoyed with how they are portrayed in the media there etc.
White people actually do tend to get somewhat idealised in certain parts of japanese culture and thats a thing I found a bit uncomfortable and certainly put me in a different position to a japanese man in a western country due to our portrayal of most asian cultures.

Offline Nosmas

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #623 on: April 17, 2017, 05:32:29 PM »
I wanted to restate the last sentence.

It's not a thing that's easy to define, but it really boils down to this: treat other cultures with respect. If you are interested in participating in a certain culture, you should pay attention to how you are participating and make an effort to know whether your participation is respectful or not. That burden is on you. Also, don't take ownership of it, or expect that you are automatically invited and/or entitled to be warmly welcomed and educated.

And I don't agree that we need an invite to participate in expressions which originate from other cultures, but that's why this is such a good topic for discussion.

I agree with you that it really does boil down to trying not to be a jerk--it's just that what consists of acting like a jerk varies widely by individual ethics and philosophy.

Maybe not in all cases. But, for example, wearing traditional clothing. If you get invited to an Indian wedding, it's okay to wear a sari and henna or other traditional clothing. If you aren't Indian, it's not okay to walk around wearing a sari and henna or a bindi just because you think it's pretty.

Interesting that you use that example. I'd be curious to know what you think of the real life example I gave of this in post #607.

To summarize, my aunt is white but has been married to an Indian man for 30 years and wears Indian clothing occasionally. Her daughter looks white and does the same but actually is part Indian.

I kind of did answer it. I'm half Indian but I look white. I sometimes wear Indian clothing if I'm going to a family party that involves the members of my family who are more connected the Indian culture that wears traditional clothing. Incidentally some of my relatives come from a part of India that was conquered AND religiously converted and so they wore western apparel even when they grew up in India as people who were ethnically Indian- not people of European ancestry born there. I love Indian clothing and I own some, but I don't wear it around alone because I feel extremely conscious of the fact that I look like a white person trying to dress like an Indian person, even though I'm as Indian as I am white. As far as my family/friends here and in India are concerned, I'm aware of a sensitivity about appropriation- I'm aware of white people using Indian clothing (which sometimes gets incorrectly mixed with middle eastern culture- similar to how Katy Perry mixed up Chinese and Japanese in her Geisha video) as costume or bindis as decoration and aware of the fact that it kind of bothers my Indian peeps in contexts where it's people just doing it without being invited to a wedding because they often do it wrong or in the wrong context or mix it with other cultures in a way that comes off as uninformed and it feels kind of irritating to see. I am also aware of the fact Indians have different social issues here in the US as one of the "model minorities," but who still are subject to all kinds of other types of implicit bias and that there is a really strong pressure to assimilate. The strongest pressure to assimilate is in accents. The Indian accent is horrifically portrayed (see Apu from the Simpsons) in western pop culture, and there are a lot of other things that go along with that that are subtle but also deeply problemmatic- Indian men are seen as the butt of jokes and unattractive: you almost never see an Indian male lead in something, they are usually the sidekick or comedic relief (see Rajesh Koothrapali from big bang theory). Wearing Sikh dastaar (turbans) have become a bit of a joke and people wear them and there are a zillion jokes about turbans and how they look silly and or like what terrorists wear... even though it's an Indian thing and not a thing in the middle east. Younger Indian women are more often portrayed as mysterious or exotic, and clothing elements that go along with that add to the mystical Eastern stereotype that gets built up, and white women have (especially in the 90s) worn bindis combined with makeup that builds into this, there was an attempt to achieve an exotic look. Part of the model minority thing is that Indians are also generally known for less muckraking and quiet assimilation, but trust me when I say that bristling over white folks wearing Indian clothing happens when such conversations are safe to have.

This white woman who married an Indian man and had a half-Indian daughter likely understands her husband's culture and is then part of that Indian family and probably has a respectful way of going about wearing Indian clothing. That said, I would hope that she would understand- the way I understand, that if you do it in a certain context, people won't necessarily realize that you are (in my case) Indian (and in her case deeply tied by family), and it may come off as appropriation. White-passing people (& white people marrying) in families of color is an extremely complicated issue by itself.

Thanks for the long well thought out reply. I got an idea how you might respond by looking up some of your previous posts in this thread as well.

I'm sure my aunt does understand the culture quite well. Like you said though, people that do not know her could just assume she's "being a dick" because she's obviously white. Given we can't read each others minds or immediately know the context behind someone with a certain skin tone wearing or doing something traditionally done by people of another skin tone, then it seems best to reserve offense for something more blatant. Otherwise, assuming someone of a certain skin tone doesn't have the right to do or wear something actually makes the person who's offended a dick, far more so if they actually confront the imagined appropriator about it. That kind of being offended is a large chunk of the issue some people have with CA. Sure it can be dismissed by some here as being some extreme example that's ridiculous, but if they really are offended then who are you to tell them they're being ridiculous (not you specifically)? A look at internet discussions on the topic shows that quite a few people within social justice circles don't seem to think confronting someone about wearing hoops is stupid or that the person is stupid for feeling that way. They probably don't think that confronting a white lady wearing Indian clothing would be either. 

Clearly there's a line somewhere and varying shades of what's ok and what's ridiculous but I get a sense that some people more toward the pro CA side don't really want to try and clarify that line or talk about those shades. Just trying to simplify it as "oh it's just as simple as don't be a dick" really doesn't do the topic justice and comes across as lazy and unnecessarily patronizing. This is especially obvious when in one moment it's apparently as simple as a four letter phrase the next someone of an actual minority with personal experience is saying that some aspects of it " ...is an extremely complicated issue by itself."

There's the slightly separate but related issue of white people just wearing or doing something which traditionally belongs to another culture because they just happen to be a fan of that thing. Although this might be easier to write off as "don't be a dick" there's still more to it then that. It's not like nothing is lost by just not doing whatever offends some unknown acceptable percentage of a cultural group. You're now telling people that it doesn't matter if those dreadlocks look great to them and feels like a good way to express themselves, they're simply dicks for wanting to do it because some are offended. I only think they're worthy of being labelled this way if they don't particularly like dreads but do it anyway because they know it upsets someone. What makes it even more unclear is that some within the rightful deadlock wearing culture might actually want the style to become more popular.

EDIT: Don't take all of my reply as meant to target you 6EQUJ5. It's mostly meant to be a reply to the topic and thread in general but motivated by your post.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2017, 05:34:55 PM by Nosmas »
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Offline Drunken Idaho

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #624 on: April 17, 2017, 05:56:09 PM »
I think everybody in this thread is well-intentioned. The division seems to be between valuing the avoidance of offense vs. valuing personal expression or the spreading of culture.

If I, as like the whitest person possible (seriously, I'm super pale), walk around downtown Houston in traditional Indian garb because I like the fashion, I accept that somebody might think, "that guy is obviously not Indian, and I don't like that he's choosing a cultural expression from my people as a fashion choice." But I also believe another person might think, "oh yay, look at that white dude wearing traditional Indian garb, that's great!"

I value the latter over the former (in that I think there is a greater good achieved)--but I don't think anybody is wrong to value the former over that latter as a personal choice.
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Offline 6EQUJ5

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #625 on: April 17, 2017, 06:02:29 PM »
(click to show/hide)

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then it seems best to reserve offense for something more blatant.
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I object to the concept of discussing this in terms of "offense" and I also object to the idea that offense is something that is controllable. In the examples I offered, the point of me not wearing traditional Indian clothing is that I don't want an Indian person to feel the frustrated sense of injustice, unfairness, and general ickiness that they might feel from seeing me wearing Indian clothing. That reaction is not something that they can help, and it's part of the net life experience that is harder/more stressful for people of varying intersections. I recognize that looking white is a certain amount of privilege and that as a person with privilege that it is better for society and does less harm if I am careful with how I relate to the world.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2017, 06:07:23 PM by 6EQUJ5 »
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Offline Nosmas

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #626 on: April 17, 2017, 07:53:34 PM »
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then it seems best to reserve offense for something more blatant.
(click to show/hide)

I object to the concept of discussing this in terms of "offense" and I also object to the idea that offense is something that is controllable. In the examples I offered, the point of me not wearing traditional Indian clothing is that I don't want an Indian person to feel the frustrated sense of injustice, unfairness, and general ickiness that they might feel from seeing me wearing Indian clothing. That reaction is not something that they can help, and it's part of the net life experience that is harder/more stressful for people of varying intersections. I recognize that looking white is a certain amount of privilege and that as a person with privilege that it is better for society and does less harm if I am careful with how I relate to the world.

While it's fine that you would rather not discuss this in terms of offense, I think taking offense is a big part of what drives conversation about CA for many. I do agree that you can't really control what offends you, although I think hearing differing perspectives can change it. Same goes for "ickyness" and "unfairness" although probably less so the latter.

I understand your choice not to wear traditional Indian clothing. I think it comes down to a value judgement. Many will differ on where they land with that judgement.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2017, 07:57:07 PM by Nosmas »
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Offline D4M10N

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #627 on: April 17, 2017, 08:48:16 PM »
There is a racial element going on here which has been underanalyzed so far, AFAIK. People from multiethnic societies which lack racial homogeneity cannot look at an individual and guess whether they have the ancestry/background to go with the cultural artifact being displayed.

I don't know if the Latinx students against hoops  (mentioned upthread) know about this, but Latino people actually come in most every color.

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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #628 on: April 17, 2017, 10:15:09 PM »
Would you wear a Purple Heart? If not, why not?

I already told you why not.

Because that would be deceptive.
Is that all? Is that the only reason you wouldn't wear it?

Once again, you have yet to show an element of deliberate deception in *any* of the examples of CA given in the thread. That seems like a fairly crucial point of disanalogy to me.

That's because deception isn't the key concept. Cultural appropriation isn't bad because it is deceptive. It's bad because it is appropriation. It's bad because when you do it, you are saying "this is mine", even though you haven't worked for it, fought for it, or suffered for it.

Communicating "I earned this" when you did not actually earn it is being deceptive, of course. That is bad, at least relative to my own values. You seem to believe appropriation is bad for reasons apart from deception, but "saying 'this is mine,' even though you haven't worked for it, fought for it, or suffered for it" is consummately deceptive. This is why the headdress example is at least potentially analogous to stolen valor, in morally salient terms.

As I mentioned above, however, no one seriously believes that young Christina Fallin earned her feathers in battle as a Sioux warrior. No one thought she fought for her headdress in the traditional way, what with this being the 21st century and her being a white woman. The element of "I earned this" deception simply isn't present in her case.
Yeah, you missed my point again. I didn't say that deception wasn't part of cultural appropriation, I said it wasn't the key concept. Of course the fact that it is deceptive is an aspect of it, but it's not the most important aspect.

The most important aspect of cultural appropriation is that by taking it from its culture and using it yourself, you are devaluing it. You are saying that you care so little about the culture that you feel comfortable taking aspects of it - aspects that members of that culture may feel are extremely important to them - and putting them on as though they were a cheap t-shirt.

If I can get a pair of jump wings at the flea market for a buck fifty, what does that say about the effort you went through to get them? Furthermore, what am I saying about how much I value your effort? I just don't give a shit what you had to go through to get them, because I can get them for a buck fifty. You should have too. Why did you bother doing what you did? You wasted all that effort. Everything that you went through to get those wings is basically worthless.

Now, if those wings represent something in your life that you find significant, you might be offended that I value that so little. I don't know whether you would or not - perhaps your jump wings don't represent anything important to you.

Now think about the Purple Heart, and what kind of sacrifice that represents. You fought for your country - you were injured in the line of duty - you suffered, you risked your life, and your country has recognised that and awarded you an honour for it.

And I can pick one up for a buck fifty. Maybe two bucks. What does that say about your sacrifice? It says that I value your sacrifice at no more than chump change. You bleeding and suffering in the line of duty is worth no more to me than something I can find beneath the couch cushions.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #629 on: April 17, 2017, 10:26:23 PM »
I'm not the one whose culture is being appropriated. How about you ask the question of those people whose culture is being appropriated instead?

I said this exact thing earlier in the thread, based on Damion's post, that the affected culture's opinions are something that can be measured. I was told very explicitly that its irrelevant.

You also said in reply to DrunkenIdaho that the hoop earrings example is stupid and to ignore it. But we can easily find examples of people who say it is their culture and that they are bothered by it being appropriated.

So what examples should be discussed? Cultural opinion at a statistical level is irrelevant, opinion by individuals within a culture dont matter if the example "is stupid"... it sounds like a No True Scotsman. Youre only willing to discuss the ones that "actually matter" but refuse to provide criteria or examples for what matters, while dismissing any time someone tries to engage.
I'm saying that I'm the wrong person to ask what examples should be discussed. You should discuss examples with those who are affected by it. If that means discussing hoop earrings, then do that. With someone who believes that it is a relevant example. Not with me. It's not my culture. I have no experience with it.

If I discuss examples that I think are relevant, am I not now forcing my culture onto the discussion? Am I not now appropriating the discussion itself? Why are we white heterosexual males discussing what Latino women should and should not care about? I'm not going to say I think black people should be offended by this, or not be offended by that. It's not my culture and I won't impose my extracultural ideas on what those cultures should think or feel.

I didn't say that hoop earrings were a stupid case of cultural appropriation, I said that they were a stupid example for us to be discussing. And it's a stupid example because none of us have a cultural stake in it, so all we would be doing would be talking over the heads of those whom it does affect. And because it seems dumb to us, we devalue and dismiss it, and thereby devalue and dismiss the entire concept of cultural appropriation because we used a poor example.
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