About this blog…

This blog was set up as a companion blog to my Marie Sklodowska -Curie Research Project Contentious Politics in an Age of Austerity which I completed in 2015 (but have been learning from and publishing and speaking about since then). I no longer update it but it does have a series of resources related to the project I hope you will find useful and provocative for thinking about contemporary politics.

I am currently working on an expanded and revised edition of my book Social Movements and Globalization, which will be back with a slightly changed title (Social Movements in a Globalized World), and will have expanded theory discussion, more examples from the Global South, a big fat chapter on Right-Wing movements, and updated refs and discussion of ICTs, media and movements, as well as a bit more to say about movement outcomes in the conclusion. Thanks to all the people who asked for this and wanted even more from me in a second edition.

Passionate as that project is, my real passion for the past years has been a major book on Spain’s 15-M (Indignados) movement, and I really hope to have news about that soon. If you want to keep up with me, my google profile is here, you can find many publications of mine here,  and I am now a Reader in Social Media and Politics at Loughborough and you can see my not-very-updated- because-we-have-no-direct-control webpage with dorkiest photo ever here. You can find me on Twitter at @CfFominaya

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Statement from the Dock from the child Joan Burton wants to lock up.

(NEW & EXCLUSIVE – READ JUROR 791’s response to her exclusion from the fake trial of Seanie Fitzpatrick here – Only on Bogmans Cannon, the home of sedition) I’m a 17 yea…

Source: Statement from the Dock from the child Joan Burton wants to lock up.

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On common sense, good sense, social transformation, and what happens when women argue for their right to political representation.

*Keynote presented at Birkbeck Institute for Social Research and Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities Graduate Conference 2015 “Reflections On Social Change” Original title: Unpacking common sense for social transformation

Thank you so much for inviting me here today to speak with you, it is an honor and a pleasure to be here.

I’m going to be talking to you today about common sense and good sense and since I know that you’re theoretically sophisticated graduate students you will have immediately clocked that these two terms put together are often associated with the work of Antonio Gramsci. But in fact I am not going to be using the term common sense strictly in the Gramscian sense of the term, as the spontaneous form of common sense arising out of the lived experience of the working classes, but rather in its much more prosaic and mundane sense: those types of arguments that are routinely put forward to justify and reaffirm the status quo. Continue reading

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Understanding Spain’s Historic General Elections

Explainer: the Spanish general election

Cristina Flesher Fominaya, University of Aberdeen

Spain is on the brink of a general election that looks set to change its political system for good. How come?

To understand what’s going on, we need to look back at the protests that filled the squares of Spain in May 2011 and triggered one of the most dynamic and sustained episodes of citizen mobilisation the country has ever seen. Continue reading

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Contemporary resistance to crisis and austerity: some reflections on dynamics, challenges and opportunities

*Keynote delivered to the Willi Münzenberg First International Congress “Global Spaces for Radical Solidarity: Transnational Movements, Social, Cultural and Humanitarian Ideas, Networks and Media of the 20th Century” in Berlin, September 20, 2015

Good afternoon. It is a real honour and a privilege to be invited here to provide the closing address for what I hope has been for each of you a wonderful conference. I hope you will forgive me today for speaking mostly about Spain and Europe in a conference on global solidarity but I hope that what I have to say will have relevance for you wherever your personal sphere of action may be.

We are living through a really fascinating moment in politics. On the one hand the panorama is very depressing as we witness the ravages of austerity politics and the rise of discourses and practices that dehumanise and criminalise poverty and continue to justify the increasing wealth inequality that characterises even the most prosperous of countries. Continue reading

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Videos and Podcasts

Here are some videos and podcasts of some talks over the past year or so on hologram protests, austerity protests and politics, transnational diffusion and more….will update as I track down more links. Continue reading

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Netiqueta de e-mail para colectivos virtuales:

 Nota de la autora:

Recientemente publiqué un artículo llamado:

Unintended Consequences: The Negative Impact of Email Use on Participation and Collective Identity in Two “Horizontal” Social Movement Groups. (Consecuencias inesperadas: El impacto negativo del uso del e-mail en la participación y la identidad colectiva en dos grupos de movimientos sociales “horizontales”). (The European Political Science Review doi:10.1017/S1755773914000423)

La gente me ha pedido que escriba algo sobre cuáles son las implicaciones prácticas de esto para los grupos, especialmente para colectivos virtuales, que intentan trabajar horizontalmente. He escrito este breve texto de abajo. Sin embargo, ¡recomiendo que leas el artículo para entender cómo y por qué suceden estos procesos a pesar de nuestras mejores intenciones! Si no puedes acceder a una copia sólo ponte en contacto y te enviaré una.

Netiqueta de e-mail para colectivos virtuales:
Las investigaciones muestran que la comunicación por e-mail, incluso en “grupos horizontales” está a menudo muy sesgada, reproduce desequilibros informales de poder, está influenciada por el género y puede ser usada para dominar discusiones y distorsionar los procesos de toma de decisiones (Cronauer 2004, Kavada 2007, 2009, 2010, Flesher Fominaya 2015).
El e-mail tiene ciertas ventajas pero también reproduce ciertas patologías. Aquellas personas que están siempre conectadas o son siempre las primeras en responder a los e-mails pueden dominar la discusión, mientras muchos factores inhiben la participación, incluyendo falta de confianza, la deferencia hacia la experiencia o autoridad percibida de alguna otra persona (con frecuencia esto está influenciado por el género, siendo los hombres quienes simultáneamente se presentan a sí mismos y son percibidos como la voz de la autoridad), no sentirse partícipe en la discusión, no tener tiempo para leer toda una larga cadena de e-mails, etc.
En la mayoría de listas de correo es una minoría la que participa mucho, el resto muy poco. Los hombres tienden a intervenir hasta 3 o 4 veces más que las mujeres. Otro patrón común es la comunicación binaria en la cual la gente sólo responderá a ciertos individuos y entre sí pero no a los demás de la lista. Todo esto varía, por supuesto, dependiendo de la clase de lista y grupo.
Además, debido a la rotura del espacio/tiempo en la comunicación, aquellas personas que llegan primero pueden dar forma a la discusión alejándola de su objetivo inicial, y aquéllas que se unen más tarde pueden encontrarse con que o bien sólo responden a la última formulación del asunto o bien que en la discusión parece que el “consenso” ya ha sido alcanzado, aun cuando en realidad sólo hayan participado unas pocas personas.
El e-mail también puede ser muy útil pero no debería ser el único medio de comunicación, y es por eso que otras herramientas como los Titan Pads pueden ayudar a crear espacios donde cualquiera puede entrar en una discusión,  ver cómo ésta ha progresado y obtener una visión global del asuntoAun así los Titan Pads son buenos sólo para tareas específicas y el e-mail sigue siendo excelente para comunicaciones breves y coordinación. El e-mail es particularmente problemático como medio para tomar decisiones porque facilita el problema del “falso consenso”. Para todo aquello que no sean asuntos simples de coordinación se deben buscar otros mecanismos.
El e-mail funciona muy eficazmente en organizaciones jerárquicas o en grupos con roles y tareas claramente definidas, pero plantea más problemas a los grupos que intentan trabajar colectiva y horizontalmente sin mecanismos claramente definidos para tomar decisiones, roles claramente definidos, etc. Mientras que en una asamblea todo el mundo está ahí junto, puede haber una persona moderando, puedes leer el lenguaje corporal y animar a la participación, el e-mail no permite ninguna de esas cosas. Así pues conlleva un esfuerzo añadido intentar dialogar bien en listas, que rápidamente pueden ser dominadas por unas pocas voces.
Consejos para evitar las patologías del e-mail y no reproducir sus desequilibrios de poder y distorsiones:
  • Evita ser siempre la primera persona que interviene en las discusiones
  • Intenta que tus intervenciones sean breves. Los e-mails largos dan la impresión de que eres la autoridad y envían una señal de que te apropias del tema. También generan largas cadenas de e-mails que hacen aún más difícil que otras puedan ponerse al día.
  • Si ya has intervenido no vuelves a hacerlo a menos que simplemente estés aclarado tu propia opinión, hasta que otras hayan tenido una oportunidad de intervenir. No uses la excusa de la clarificación para simplemente volver a exponer tu propia postura. Clarifica si sientes que no te han entendido bien o te han malinterpretado.
  • No escribas e-mails clarificando las posturas de otras personas o reformulando debates o discusiones comenzadas por otras. Una vez más esto señala que “te pertenece” el tema o que tienes la autoridad para plantear preguntas al grupo que otras personas no tienen. Es paternalista, a
  • pesar de bienintencionado.
  • Si sientes que debes reformular una discusión asegúrate de incluir todos los puntos de vista presentados por los demás, no sólo puntos simbólicos para enlazar con tu propia opinión sobre el asunto.
  • Ten en cuenta el género. Es un hecho muy triste que tanto hombres como mujeres (incluso feministas) perciban las voces masculinas como más autorizadas que las de las mujeres. Reflexiona sobre si estás cayendo inconscientemente en ese patrón. Haz un esfuerzo para validar conscientemente, en tus intervenciones, todas las voces. Ten en cuenta los desequilibrios de género en la comunicación.
  • Haz un esfuerzo para participar. Aunque simplemente respondas muy brevemente eso ayuda a otras personas a sentir que están siendo oídas, que otras están escuchando y participando. (Esto se aplica sólo para aquéllas que no han intervenido. La gente que siente que necesitan validar / responder a la voz de cada una de las demás personas están de hecho ejerciendo un predominio sobre el grupo. Se trata de comunicación por e-mail, no la terapía Rogeriana).
  • Evita responder siempre o sólo a ciertas personas.
  • Evita que las conversaciones deriven en discusiones entre 2 personas. Imagina que estás en una asamblea.
  • Date cuenta de cómo la comunicación reproduce relaciones de poder en el grupo. Si eres de esas personas que tiende a dominar o participar mucho, reflexiona sobre tus propias intervenciones. Hay una fina línea entre resultar de ayuda y dominar/controlar la comunicación. Si participas poco, pregúntate por qué eso es así. Sugiere formas de mejorar la comunicación. Ten en cuenta los desequilibrios de poder y tu propio rol en su reproducción.
  • Considera seriamente abrir un Titan Pad y trasladar a ese espacio la discusión y las propuestas. Envía notificaciones por e-mail acerca de los nuevos PADS y recuérdale a la gente que participe.
  • Recuerda que tener más experiencia (o pensar que la tienes) no te confiere automáticamente más autoridad.
  • Ten en cuenta los diferentes estilos retóricos. Los hombres, por ejemplo, a menudo hablan con la voz de la autoridad (ej: Os puedo asegurar que… Pienso que tendríamos que hacer X… Deberíamos hacer X… Como alguien con X años de experiencia en X, puedo decir que…). Las mujeres a menudo adoptan un estilo más reflexivo/abierto (Me pregunto si podríamos… A lo mejor podríamos… Tal vez podría ser una buena idea…). Recuerda que sólo porque algo sea dicho con autoridad no lo hace más válido. Decir algo con más vacilación o reflexivamente no lo hace menos válido. Diferentes culturas a menudo adoptan diferentes estilos discursivos, algunos más directos, otros mucho menos.
  • Ten en cuenta las diferencias de zona horaria y las muy reales diferencias en la habilidad de la gente para tener tiempo que dedicar al e-mail. Tener más tiempo para invertir en el e-mail confiere más poder para influir en las discusiones (no debería pero lo hace). Sé consciente de que tu habilidad para dedicarte a una discusión no te confiere automáticamente más autoridad en un grupo, e intenta reflexionar más sobre la frecuencia y extensión de tus intervenciones.
  • En el e-mail la gente que “llega tarde a la fiesta” a menudo siente que el consenso ya ha sido alcanzado o que se han perdido la parte de la discusión en la que podían realizar intervenciones útiles. Por esta razón, entre otras, a menudo un Titan Pad es una mejor idea.
  • Busca activamente alternativas al e-mail para los procesos de toma de decisiones de cualquier importancia, especialmente aquéllos relacionados con la manera en que el grupo trabaja internamente, aquellos que tengan que ver con elementos de la estrategia del colectivo,  o asuntos donde realmente tendría que darse un quórum.
  • Comienza con la premisa de que el e-mail plantea barreras reales para la participación por múltiples razones. Muchos grupos operan bajo el supuesto de que el e-mail es inheréntemente democrático, horizontal y participativo, y tienen una capacidad de reflexión sobre ello realmente escasa. Esto es un error. Debido a que el e-mail está tan integrado en nuestras prácticas cotidianas,  a menudo no logramos ver los impactos negativos que tiene o puede tener.
Referencias:

Cronauer, K. (2004), Activism and the Internet: A Socio-Political Analysis of How the Use of Electronic Mailing Lists Affects Mobilization in Social Movement Organizations, Vancouver, British Columbia: University of British Columbia.

Flesher Fominaya, C. (2015) Unintended Consequences: The Negative Impact of Email Use on Participation and Collective Identity in Two “Horizontal” Social Movement Groups. The European Political Science Review  doi:10.1017/S1755773914000423

Kavada, A. (2007), The European Social Forum and the Internet: A Case Study of Communication Networks and Collective Action, PhD, University of Westminster, London.

—— (2009), ‘Email lists and the construction of an open and multifaceted identity: the case of the London

2004 European Social Forum’, Information, Communication & Society 12: 817–839.

—— (2010), ‘Email lists and participatory democracy in the European Social Forum’, Media, Culture & Society 32: 355–372.

*** Los Titan Pads han sido adoptados por muchos grupos activistas en España como una forma efectiva de comunicación y coordinación que también supera muchas de las patologías del e-mail. Es una de las revoluciones digitales menos reconocidas en la práctica de la coordinación activista. Para saber más sobre los Titan Pads y cómo usarlos, ver: http://internal.masd.k12.wi.us/cms/0.Classroom.Connections/Documents/TitanPad-Guide.pdf

**** Aunque aquí me he centrado en los colectivos virtuales estos consejos también se aplican a asambleas/colectivos que tienen encuentros virtuales y presenciales. Para saber mucho más sobre la relación entre las esferas virtual y presencial y el impacto en el e-mail, léase el artículo “Unintended Consequences” (referenciado arriba)

Traducción del colectivo Traducciones Indignadas. ¡Mil gracias!

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Email etiquette for virtual collectives:

 I recently published an article called:

Unintended Consequences: The Negative Impact of Email Use on Participation and Collective Identity in Two “Horizontal” Social Movement Groups. (The European Political Science Review  doi:10.1017/S1755773914000423)

People have asked me to write something about what the practical implications of this are for groups, especially virtual collectives, trying to work horizontally. I have written this short piece below. However, I do recommend you read the article to understand how and why these processes happen despite our best intentions! If you cannot access a copy, just get in touch and I will send one along.

Email etiquette for virtual collectives:

Research shows that email communication even in “horizontal groups” is often very skewed, reproduces informal power imbalances, is gendered, and can be used to dominate discussions and distort decision making processes (Cronauer 2004, Kavada 2007, 2009, 2010, Flesher Fominaya 2015).

Email has certain advantages, but also reproduces certain pathologies. Those people who are always online or always the first to respond to other’s emails can dominate discussion, whereas many factors inhibit participation, including lack of confidence, deferring to another’s perceived expertise or authority (often this is gendered, with males both presenting themselves and being perceived as the voice of authority), not feeling invested in the discussion, not having time to read through a long string of emails, etc.
On most email lists, a few people participate a lot, the rest very little. Men tend to intervene up to 3 or 4 more times than women.  Another common pattern is binary communication where people will only reply to certain individuals and to each other but not to others on the list.  All of this varies of course depending on the kind of list and group.

In addition, because of time/space rupture in communication, those who get in first can shape a discussion away from its original focus, and those who come in later may find that either they only respond to the last formulation of the issue, or that the discussion feels like “consensus” has already been reached, even if in reality only a few people have taken part.

Email can also be very useful, but should not be the sole means of communication, which is why other tools like Titan Pads can help create spaces where anyone can come in to a discussion and see how it has progressed and get the whole picture. Titan pads are only good for specific tasks though and email is still great for short communications and coordination. Email is particularly problematic as a means of decision making, because it facilitates the problem of “false consensus”. For anything but simple issues of coordination, other mechanisms should be sought.

Email works very effectively in hierarchical organizations, or in groups with clearly defined roles and tasks, but runs into more problems for groups trying to work collectively and horizontally and which do not have clearly defined mechanisms for decision making, clearly defined roles, etc.. Whereas in an assembly everyone is there together, there can be a moderator, you can read body language, and encourage participation, email affords none of those things. So it takes extra effort to try to make a good exchange on lists, which can quickly become dominated by a few voices.

Top tips for avoiding email pathologies and reproducing power imbalances and distortions:

  • Avoid always being the first person to weigh in on a discussion
  • Keep your interventions short if possible. Lengthy emails convey the impression that you are the authority and sends a signal that you own the issue. They also create large email strings that make it even harder for others to catch up on.
  • If you have already intervened, do not do so again unless you are merely clarifying your own point, until others have had a chance to weigh in. Don’t use the guise of clarification to simply restate your own position. Do clarify if you feel you have been misunderstood or misinterpreted.
  • Do not write emails clarifying other’s positions, or rephrasing debates or discussions started by others. Again this signals that you “own” the issue, or have the authority to pose questions to the group but others do not. It is paternalistic, however well intentioned.
  • If you do feel you must rephrase a discussion make sure to include all the points presented by others, not just token points, which you then link to your own take on the issue.
  • Be aware of gender. It is a sad fact that both men and women (even feminists ) perceive male voices as more authoritative than women’s. Think about whether you are unconsciously falling into that pattern. Make an effort to consciously validate all voices in your interventions. Be aware of gender imbalances in communication.
  • Make an effort to participate. Even if you just respond very briefly it helps others to feel they are being heard, that others are listening and taking part. (This applies only to those who have not intervened. People who feel they need to validate / respond to every other person’s voices are in fact exerting dominance over the group. This is email communication not Rogerian therapy).
  • Avoid always or only responding to certain people.
  • Avoid carrying on conversations back and forth between 2 people.  Pretend you are in an assembly.
  • Be aware of how communication reproduces power relations in the group. If you are one of the people who tends to dominate or participate a lot, think about your own interventions. There is a fine line between being helpful and dominating / controlling communication. If you participate little, think about why that is. Suggest ways to improve communication. Be aware of power imbalances and your own role in reproducing them.
  • Seriously consider  setting up a Titan Pad (now defunct, similar tools can be found: here) and then move discussion and proposals over to that space. Send email notifications about new PADS and remind people to participate.
  • Remember having more expertise (or thinking you do) does not actually confer you with more authority
  • Be aware of different rhetorical styles. Men for example often speak with the voice of authority (e.g. I can attest that… I think we should do X…We should do X… As someone with X years of experience in X, I can say that…). Women often adopt a more reflexive/open style (I wonder if we might…Maybe we could…Perhaps it might be a good idea to…). Remember just because something is said with authority does not make it nay more valid. Saying something more hesitantly or reflexively does not make it any less valid. Different cultures often adopt different discursive styles, some more direct, some much less so.
  • Be aware of time zone differences and very real differences in people’s ability to have time to engage in email. Having more time to spend on email confers more power to influence discussions (it shouldn’t but it does). Be aware that your ability to engage in a discussion does not actually confer you with more authority in a group, and try to be reflexive about the frequency and length of your interventions.
  • In email, people arriving “later to the party” often feel that consensus has been reached already or that they have missed the part of the discussion where they can usefully intervene. For this reason, among others, often a Titan Pad is a better idea.
  • Actively seek alternatives to email for decision making processes of any importance, especially those involving how the group works internally, items relating to strategy, or issues where a quorum really should be in place.
  • Start with the premise that email poses real barriers to participation for many reasons. Many groups operate on the assumption that email is inherently democratic, horizontal and participatory, and have remarkably little reflexivity about email. This is a mistake. Because email is so engrained in our daily practices, we often fail to see the negative impacts it has or can have.

References:

Cronauer, K. (2004), Activism and the Internet: A Socio-Political Analysis of How the Use of Electronic

Mailing Lists Affects Mobilization in Social Movement Organizations, Vancouver, British Columbia:

University of British Columbia.

Flesher Fominaya, C. (2015) Unintended Consequences: The Negative Impact of Email Use on Participation and Collective Identity in Two “Horizontal” Social Movement Groups. The European Political Science Review  doi:10.1017/S1755773914000423

Kavada, A. (2007), The European Social Forum and the Internet: A Case Study of Communication

Networks and Collective Action, PhD, University of Westminster, London.
—— (2009), ‘Email lists and the construction of an open and multifaceted identity: the case of the London

2004 European Social Forum’, Information, Communication & Society 12: 817–839.
—— (2010), ‘Email lists and participatory democracy in the European Social Forum’, Media, Culture & Society 32: 355–372.

*** Titan Pads have been adopted by many activist groups in Spain as an effective way of communication and coordination that also overcomes many email pathologies. It is one of the least recognized digital revolutions in activist coordinating practice. For more on Titan Pads and how to use them, see http://internal.masd.k12.wi.us/cms/0.Classroom.Connections/Documents/TitanPad-Guide.pdf

****Although I have focused here on virtual collectives, these tips also apply to assemblies/collectives with both on and offline meetings. For much more on the relation between on and offline spheres and the impact of email, read the article “Unintended Consequences” (Ref above)

 

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Upcoming Events

May 7 2015 Keynote Address: “EU Anti-Austerity protests: impacts and challenges”,  University of Roskilde

May 15 2015 Keynote Address, Birkbeck Institute Graduate Conference, 43 Gordon Sq, London “Unpacking common sense for Social Transformation”

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Resources from The Only Thing Worth Globalizing is Dissent Conference Cairo March 6-8 2015

I was honoured and delighted to be invited to deliver a keynote address at this conference in Cairo. Given the current levels of repression, the conference was nothing short of a minor miracle. This is due to the incredible efforts of the organizers, including  Professor Mona Baker, who has circulated the message below, which I reproduce here so that anyone who could not attend can have access to some of the keynotes and workshops, programme and other resources. Hopefully you will find something inspirational there, as I did.

Message from Mona Baker:

Translation and the Many Languages of Resistance

With the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Centre for Translation & Intercultural Studies at Manchester, I am pleased to offer free access to some of the highlights of the hugely successful conference held in Cairo on 6-8 March. A resources section has been created on the conference site (https://globalizingdissent.wordpress.com/resources-2/), with links to the full delegate booklet for those who did not attend the conference or arrived after we ran out of copies, a link to a review of the conference published in Mada Masr, and 8 downloadable videos:

Trailer, with highlights of the event:https://globalizingdissent.wordpress.com/trailer-the-only-…/

Plenary 1
Samah Selim: Text and Context – Translating in a State of Emergency
https://globalizingdissent.wordpress.com/samah-selim-text-…/

Plenary 2
Mada Masr: Journalism as Translation
https://globalizingdissent.wordpress.com/mada-masr-journal…/

Plenary 3
Leil-Zahra Mortada: Translation and Solidarity in Words of Women from the Egyptian Revolution
https://globalizingdissent.wordpress.com/translation-and-s…/

Plenary 4
Khalid Abdalla: Changing Frames and Fault-lines
https://globalizingdissent.wordpress.com/khalid-abdallah-c…/

Plenary 5
Brandon Jourdan: Translating Rebellion – From Local Protests to Global Uprisings
https://globalizingdissent.wordpress.com/translating-rebel…/

Plenary 6
Cristina Flesher Fominaya: The Translation of Protests and Movements Across Time, Space and Culture
https://globalizingdissent.wordpress.com/the-translation-o…/

Plenary 7
Amro Ali: Alexandria and Activism – Translating Memory, Mythology and Utopianism
https://globalizingdissent.wordpress.com/alexandria-and-ac…/

Workshop
Alisa Lebow: Filming Revolution – A New Media Experiment in Translating Complex Experience
https://globalizingdissent.wordpress.com/filming-revolution/

Please note that all these resources are free to download, circulate, and post on blogs and other web sites, provided the source is acknowledged.

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