People of Mixed Ancestry in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake: Freedom, Bondage, and the Rise of Hypodescent Ideology

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2018-04-05 02:58Z by Steven

People of Mixed Ancestry in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake: Freedom, Bondage, and the Rise of Hypodescent Ideology

Journal of Social History
Published: 2017-10-17
DOI: 10.1093/jsh/shx113

A. B. Wilkinson, Assistant Professor of History
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

This article examines the origins of mixed-race ideologies and people of mixed African, European, and Native American ancestry—commonly identified as mulattoes—in the seventeenth-century English colonial Chesapeake and wider Atlantic world. Arguably, for the better part of the century, English colonial societies in the Chesapeake resembled Latin America and other Atlantic island colonies in allowing a relatively flexible social hierarchy, in which certain mixed-heritage people benefitted from their European lineage. Chesapeake authorities began to slowly set their provinces apart from their English colonial counterparts in the 1660s, when they enacted laws to deter intimate intermixture between Europeans and other ethnoracial groups and set policies that punished mixed-heritage children. Colonial officials attempted to use the legal system to restrict people of mixed ancestry, Africans, and Native Americans in bondage. These efforts supported the ideology of hypodescent, where children of mixed lineage are relegated more closely to the position of their socially inferior parentage. However, from the 1660s through the 1680s, these laws were unevenly enforced, and mixture increased with the growth of African slaves imported into the region. While many mulattoes were enslaved during this period, others were able to rely on their European heritage or racial whiteness. This allowed them to gain or maintain freedom for themselves and their families, before Virginia and Maryland institutionalized greater restrictions in the 1690s.

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The Myth of Race: The Troubling and Persistence of an Unscientific Idea by Robert Wald Sussman (review)

Posted in Anthropology, Book/Video Reviews, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2016-06-14 20:00Z by Steven

The Myth of Race: The Troubling and Persistence of an Unscientific Idea by Robert Wald Sussman (review)

Journal of Social History
Volume 49, Number 3, Spring 2016
pages 740-741

Robert J. Cottrol, Harold Paul Green Research Professor of Law and Professor of History and Sociology
George Washington University

The Myth of Race: The Troubling and Persistence of an Unscientific Idea. By Robert Wald Sussman (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014. 374 pp. $35.00).

With The Myth of Race, Robert Sussman gives us a comprehensive history of the idea of race and particularly the rise and not total fall of scientific racism Drawing on the intellectual history of his own discipline, physical anthropology, Sussman takes the reader on a journey from the role of race in the religious persecutions of the fifteenth century Spanish inquisition to an examination of the development of the eugenics movement, that movement’s link to Nazi ideology and practice, and the role of Franz Boaz and his disciples in combating scientific racism and establishing the dominance of culturally based explanations for racial and ethnic differences. The Myth of Race takes us to our uneasy present. The scientific racists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have been vanquished in the minds of the scientific communities and educated public more generally, but there are still holdouts, in some places influential holdouts, asserting the validity of earlier views positing that racial differences are real, inherited and largely immutable.

The introduction provides something of a primer on race from the point of view of physical anthropology for the uninitiated. From the biological perspective, Sussman informs us, even using the term race to discuss the variations in the human species is suspect. But Sussman’s purpose is not to provide a thumbnail sketch of the biology of race, but to explore race as an intellectual construct along with a history of its uses and misuses. Race’s development as a concept was prompted by large scale European contact with new and different peoples in Africa and the Americas, a by-product of European expansion. The Church, however imperfectly, stressed the unity of humanity, the product of a single act of creation. But others, repelled by difference, or attracted by the possibility that those who were different and more vulnerable could be readily exploited, fashioned explanations to both account for differences and to insure the dominance of Europeans. Some theories accounted for difference by attributing human variation to separate creations with Africans and the indigenous populations of the Western Hemisphere being something other and something less than children of the Biblical Adam and Eve. Others were willing to stipulate to the unity of human origins, but nonetheless asserted that those strange people who were not white, not European and not Christian were the products of a degeneration that also highlighted their inferiority and the need for them to be brought under the control of their betters. Sussman is particularly strong in presenting this history and in reminding readers that moral and political philosophers like Locke and Kant more generally thought of as advocates of political liberty and just governance played a significant role in implanting notions of racial hierarchy in European thought.

But it is in his discussion of the origins and career of eugenics as a concept where Sussman makes his strongest contribution. Sussman links the origins of eugenics to concepts of scarcity and need first articulated by Malthus. These concepts when coupled with the extension of Darwinian thought beyond basic biology would provide a basis for a school of human science that reached its logical conclusions with Nazi racial science. The Myth of Race provides a chilling look at the popularity and power of the American eugenics movement. Sussman’s discussion of the influence that American eugenicist Madison Grant’s Passing of the Great Race had on Nazi racial policies is particularly instructive.

We all, to some extent, know how the story comes out, at least to date. In the inter-war years, anthropologist Franz Boaz through his meticulous research and the influence of his disciples helped defeat the scientific racists who dominated the debate before the First World War. Boaz’s research played a pivotal role in persuading educated people that culture and not biology accounted for group differences. The horrors of the Nazi holocaust played a significant role in discrediting scientific and not so scientific racism among the public at large after the Second World War

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A Strange Emblem for a (Not So) White Nation: La Morocha Argentina in the Latin American Racial Context, c. 1900–2015

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Women on 2016-06-07 01:00Z by Steven

A Strange Emblem for a (Not So) White Nation: La Morocha Argentina in the Latin American Racial Context, c. 1900–2015

Journal of Social History
DOI: 10.1093/jsh/shw018
First published online: 2016-06-01

Ezequiel Adamovsky

This article explores the origins of La morocha argentina as an unofficial national emblem, the personification of the quintessential Argentinean woman, from its emergence in the early twentieth century to the present. A typical character of vernacular popular culture, the Argentinean “morocha” is compared to the “morenas” featured in other Latin American countries, to find similarities and differences. The racial uncertainty of the “morochas”—who, unlike the “morenas,” were not always marked as being of dark complexion—helped undermine the official discourses of the Argentinean nation, which described it as racially white and ethnically European. The ambivalence of the “morocha argentina” was crucial in contexts in which open challenges of that myth were still unfeasible. Thus, despite claims of racial exceptionalism, the making and trajectory of this emblem proves that Argentina’s racial regime is a variant of the Latin American “color-continuum” racial formations. By analyzing the Argentinean case in comparative perspective, this article also seeks to contribute to a better understanding of nonbinary racial models and, more generally, of ethnicity “beyond groupism”—to put it in Roger Brubaker’s terms. In other words, it aims to reconsider ethnicity as a process, the outcome of group-making projects, rather than (only) as the expression of preexisting ethnic entities.

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Bound Lives: Africans, Indians, and the Making of Race in Colonial Peru by Rachel Sarah O’Toole (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery on 2015-01-25 17:53Z by Steven

Bound Lives: Africans, Indians, and the Making of Race in Colonial Peru by Rachel Sarah O’Toole (review)

Journal of Social History
Volume 48, Number 2, Winter 2014
pages 465-466

Erick D. Langer, Professor of Latin American History
Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

O’Toole, Rachel Sarah, Bound Lives: Africans, Indians, and the Making of Race in Colonial Peru (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012).

The presence of Africans and their descendants is much more important than often realized in Peru. During the colonial period, tens of thousands of Africans were forced to cross the isthmus at Panama City and be sold as slaves in Peru. Even today, the rhythms of chicha, a combination of African and indigenous sounds, resonate in popular Peruvian music. The famous Peruvian cuisine was forged with important ingredients of European, Andean and African food heritages (as well as the nineteenth-century Chinese influences). More than anywhere else in the Andean region, African culture has melded with that of the Andes.

Rachel O’Toole documents Andean and African contributions to colonial society in the northern Peruvian coast during the seventeenth century. She breaks new ground by reexamining the interactions between Andeans and Africans and also explores how Andean peoples became “Indians” and Africans became “blacks.” The supposition, based on Spanish sources, had been that Africans were the enemies of the Indians, since they had more in common with their masters and abused the Andeans when they entered indigenous villages. However, O’Toole shows that that was not necessarily the case; Andeans and Africans interacted in many ways, including helping each other, intermarrying, being godparents to each other, and maintaining intense commercial relations.

Most of all, O’Toole emphasizes the new legal environment in Peru, where Africans became a legal category, a type of casta, that made human beings from Africa into merchandise and flattened out as much as possible the slaves’ diverse origins on the African continent. The Indians in turn came into a different category, of people who, according to the Spanish, were vulnerable to black castas and who enjoyed greater protections and higher legal status than people of African descent. She uses the metaphor of location to position each group into its respective legal category and how that changed over time.

After dealing with African-Andean interactions and the creation of the legal positions of each group, the author takes the last three chapters to delineate not so much the interactions between the two, but rather the making of the “Indian” category (Chapter 3) and the slave category (Chapter 2) within the casta system, which reified racial categories and created the divisions between the races. In the case of the Indians, she focuses on land and water, while for slaves she zeroes in on labor conditions. As O’Toole notes, “casta did the work of race” (164). Within the colonial system, this permitted Spaniards to divide and rule based on the differing regulations each category of human being, whether Spaniard, Indian, or black casta, had to follow. O’Toole takes to task in the conclusion of her book the towering seventeenth-century work of Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala and his negative perception of Africans. Guaman Poma, an indigenous nobleman, wrote a 1,189 page missive to the Spanish king, in which he complained about abuses against the indigenous population, especially that of the Africans. O’Toole asserts that this opinion is much too negative an assessment and that “Africans and their descendants were central to the making of the colonial Andes” (161).

This book is an important addition to the field because for the first time it focuses on the complex relationships between indigenous peoples and Africans in a central region of the Spanish empire. O’Toole also fruitfully used legal documents to “read along the grain” (66) to understand the construction of the Indian categories, centering on the judicial performances of Andeans, who consciously chose laws that favored their positions. This follows work done by many other scholars of the colonial Andes to further refine how the diverse indigenous peoples ended up in a flattened category of “Indian.” The creation of the Indian category paralleled what happened to the Africans through their experience of slavery, as the author makes clear.

Using the northern Peruvian coast as the case study for understanding the interaction between Andeans and Africans has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, this was the Andean region where the majority of Africans were imported and so there is enough evidence to document the relations between the two groups. On the other hand, the…

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The Strategies of Forbidden Love: Family across Racial Boundaries in Nineteenth-Century North Carolina

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2014-03-02 04:05Z by Steven

The Strategies of Forbidden Love: Family across Racial Boundaries in Nineteenth-Century North Carolina

Journal of Social History
Volume 47, Issue 3 (Spring 2014)
pages 612-626
DOI: 10.1093/jsh/sht112

Warren E. Milteer Jr.

This article contends that although local beliefs and legal edicts attempted to discourage sexual and familial relationships between women of color and white men in North Carolina, free women of mixed ancestry and white men developed relationships that mimicked legally-sanctioned marriages. These unions often produced children who maintained frequent interaction with both parents. In nineteenth-century Hertford County, North Carolina, free women of mixed ancestry and their white partners developed creative strategies to deal with the legal limitations inherent in their situation. Women and men in these relationships found ways to secure property rights for women and children and developed methods to prevent legal scrutiny of their living arrangements.

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Sex, Love, Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American History (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive on 2013-03-07 19:56Z by Steven

Sex, Love, Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American History (review)

Journal of Social History
Volume 33, Number 3, Spring 2000
pages 753-755
DOI: 10.1353/jsh.2000.0037

Joshua D. Rothman, Associate Professor of History
University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa

Sex, Love, Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American History. Edited by Martha Hodes (New York and London: New York University Press, 1999. xvi plus 542 pp.).

In his 1995 presidential address to the Organization of American Historians, reprinted as the opening essay of this important collection, Gary Nash called the attention of his audience to the “hidden history of mestizo America.” Lost amidst America’s long and frequently tragic experience with racial and ethnic classification and separation is a past significantly shaped by sexual intermixture, cultural boundary crossing, and lives lived and identities forged in tension with dominant ideologies. Looking backward with a sensitivity to this “hybridity,” Nash proposed, might hold a key for moving beyond racialism in our future, and for finding a politics that transcends biological determinism without sacrificing the value of difference.

The twenty-three other essays assembled here by Martha Hodes (eight of which have been previously published in whole or in part) collectively explore the possibilities such a reconceptualization of the past holds. The subtitle of the volume is a bit misleading, since nearly all of the pieces deal principally with the European colonial territories that now comprise the continental United States rather than with Mexico or Canada. Still, the breadth of human experience and historical subfields traversed by the authors is astonishing. Working from discussions of the intersection of race and sex, the essays yield insight to historical issues of gender, sexuality, marriage and the family, class, religion, slavery, violence, national and personal identity, politics and political activism, diplomacy, culture, economics and commercial exchange, law, and crime, just to name those themes most prominent and recurring.

The collection is divided into five parts and arranged chronologically. Generally, the essays within each part are logically juxtaposed. Moreover, the separate parts are connected smartly to one another, producing a discernible, if subtle and fractured, narrative that describes important ebbs and flows in the history of sex across racial and ethnic lines in America since the 1690s. The essays in part one examine various regions of colonial North America, and cumulatively investigate European, Native American, and African American societies and cultures encountering each other, sexually and otherwise, for the first time. The authors here describe an era characterized by domination and distrust, but also by uncertainty, intercultural negotiation, and mutual accommodation. The early emergence of racial antipathy and the construction of racial hierarchy-both inseparable  from sex and sexuality-are never far from the surface in the stories told by Jennifer Spear about French Louisiana, Graham Hodges about German Lutherans in New York, Daniel Mandell about New England, and Richard Godbeer about the eighteenth-century Southern backcountry.

Part two moves on to the early national and antebellum periods. Here, slavery takes center stage. Most of the essays in this section focus on interracial sexual activity between whites and blacks-particularly in the South-which was commonplace despite being legally and culturally taboo. In the words of Sharon Block, who compares and contrasts the sexual vulnerability of white servant and black enslaved women, sex across the color line under slavery frequently yielded coercive situations where “economic mastery created sexual mastery.” As Thomas E. Buckley, S.J., and Josephine Boyd Bradley and Kent Anderson Leslie demonstrate in fascinating case studies, however, familial connections between whites and blacks under slavery also enabled some people of African descent to carve out personal identities and establish economic positions that transcended both their color and their ancestry.

In her essay on antebellum New York City, Leslie Harris demonstrates how fears of “amalgamation” were central to political discourse about abolitionism, urban poverty, and immigration. As a number of essays in part three make evident, interracial sex had even more volatile political implications in the Reconstruction-era South. In his…

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“A Class of People Neither Freemen nor Slaves”: From Spanish to American Race Relations in Florida, 1821-1861

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2012-05-01 01:27Z by Steven

“A Class of People Neither Freemen nor Slaves”: From Spanish to American Race Relations in Florida, 1821-1861

Journal of Social History
Volume 26, Number 3 (Spring, 1993)
pages 587-609

Daniel L. Schafer, Professor of History emeritus
University of North Florida

This essay examines the status of free blacks in Florida, focusing on the transition from mild and flexible three-caste race policies under the Spanish prior to their departure in 1821 to the harsh and rigid two-caste policies brought by the Americans. Comparison of Cuba and East Florida shows that Spain followed parallel policies in these two colonies, yet the status of free blacks in Cuba plummeted after 1800 while their counterparts in East Florida retained their places in a seignorial caste system. Local conditions rather than metropolitan laws, institutions, and religions explain these divergences. Free blacks who remained in Florida after 1821 saw their rights decline sharply. By 1829 a rigidly discriminatory two-caste policy was in place that severely restricted future manumissions. Implementation of the new laws was effectively circumvented until the 1850s, however, as the local plantation elites, mostly holdovers from the Spanish era and fathers of free mulatto children, monopolized political offices and ignored two-caste race policies in favor of their older traditions. Case studies drawn from local records explore the fate of free blacks caught in this transition. In the 1850s cotton and lumber prices escalated along with political controversies; white supremacist attitudes and policies became the general will. Were elderly women in the past by definition dependent on their family and on charity, or was it possible for these women to build up an independent living to some extent? Research into the place of women within the household is one of the methods to gain insight into the degree of independence of elderly women. Research has shown that the elderly (women and men) did not necessarily have a dependent position within the household. A large proportion of the elderly headed their own households. This article deals with the composition of households of elderly women in the Dutch capital Amsterdam in the second half of the nineteenth century. It analyses whether elderly women could retain their independence within the household to some extent. The degree of independence is related to the position within the household, i.e. whether these women were members or heads of a household. The main source used to reconstitute the households of elderly women is the population register of Amsterdam of the period 1851-1892.

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Among the hardships faced by these men in their pioneering work of founding a colony was a scarcity of women. They solved the problem, according to the French Governor Bienville, by running “in the woods after Indian girls.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes, History, Louisiana, United States on 2012-04-27 17:59Z by Steven

In 1850 the mulattoes and others of mixed blood formed about eighty percent of Louisiana’s total free Negro population.” Some of them came from stable families which had been free for generations,” But almost all had their origins in some extramarital union (by this time perhaps quite far removed) between a white man and a black woman. The beginnings of this long-established practice dated back to the early eighteenth century when Louisiana was first being settled by the French. The small group of early settlers consisted mostly of those “in the pay of … the King” and especially garrison soldiers. Among the hardships faced by these men in their pioneering work of founding a colony was a scarcity of women. They solved the problem, according to the French Governor Bienville, by running “in the woods after Indian girls.”

Laura Foner, “The Free People of Color In Louisiana and St. Domingue: A Comparative Portrait of Two Three-Caste Slave Societies,” Journal of Social History, Volume 3, Number 3 (1970): 408.

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The Free People of Color In Louisiana and St. Domingue: A Comparative Portrait of Two Three-Caste Slave Societies

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Louisiana, Slavery, Social Science, United States on 2012-01-17 19:53Z by Steven

The Free People of Color In Louisiana and St. Domingue: A Comparative Portrait of Two Three-Caste Slave Societies

Journal of Social History
Volume 3, Number 4 (1970)
pages 406-430
DOI: 10.1353/jsh/3.4.406

Laura Foner

Recently historians of slavery in the Americas have been engaged in a heated debate over the widely differing racial patterns that emerged in the slave societies of this hemisphere. Despite their often bitter disagreements over the origins of these patterns, most agree that it was the treatment and position of the ex-slave in these societies which distinguished one racial pattern from another.

In Portuguese and Spanish America the racial and social pattern allowed the ex-slave to gain acceptance in free society and even to move from a lower to a higher social level through economic advancement. Such a change in social status was possible even in a system of racial ranking that placed whites on top and blacks on the bottom, because of the absence of a strict color line. Not only did these slave societies have many racial categories between black and white, but also a man’s status in society was not as much defined by membership in one of these racial groups as by his economic success.

In the British and French West Indies the racial lines were more sharply defined, and the same kind of racial mobility did not exist. Yet there the ex-slave could fit into a three-caste pattern which allowed a substantial group of free mixed bloods with many privileges to exist as an intermediate caste between whites and blacks.

Although in all these societies the enslavement of an easily distinguishable racial grouping produced certain racial distinctions between white and colored free men, in the United States these distinctions took on a form unique in the hemisphere. There all Negroes—free and slave—were cut off from the rest of society and confined to a distinctly separate and lower caste. This was accomplished both by increasing restrictions on manumission, which confined the Negro as much as possible to a slave status, and by a whole series of legal and social restrictions which rigidly excluded the free Negro from white society. Almost everywhere in the United States even the smallest amount of Negro blood was enough to make a man a Negro and therefore a member of a subordinate caste.

Unsuspecting travelers in the antebellum South were therefore startled to find that the deep South state of Louisiana had a large and privileged free colored community, not unlike the free colored communities of many West Indian islands. Louisiana’s free colored community was not only the biggest in the deep South. but its members had a social, economic, and legal position far superior to that of free Negroes in most other areas of the South, even whose in which the free Negro population was substantial. Travelers were struck by the unusual degree of wealth, education, and social standing of the Louisiana free Negro. They noted “Negroes in purple and fine linen,” “pretty and accomplished young women,” and ‘”opulent, intelligent colored planters.” It was not only this elegant elite which distinguished the free colored population, as only a minority belonged to it, for although they did not live in luxury the typical members of the free colored community nevertheless generally found employment at some skilled occupation. In 1860 only one tenth of the free colored population of New Orleans were classified as common laborers” In fact the free Negroes had a near monopoly of certain trades, including those of mechanic, carpenter, shoemaker, barber, and tailor…

…In 1850 the mulattoes and others of mixed blood formed about eighty percent of Louisiana’s total free Negro population.” Some of them came from stable families which had been free for generations,” But almost all had their origins in some extramarital union (by this time perhaps quite far removed) between a white man and a black woman. The beginnings of this long-established practice dated back to the early eighteenth century when Louisiana was first being settled by the French. The small group of early settlers consisted mostly of those “in the pay of … the King” and especially garrison soldiers. Among the hardships faced by these men in their pioneering work of founding a colony was a scarcity of women. They solved the problem, according to the French Governor Bienville, by running “in the woods after Indian girls.”…

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The “Quadroon-Plaçage” Myth of Antebellum New Orleans: Anglo-American (Mis)interpretations of a French-Caribbean Phenomenon

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2012-01-17 18:37Z by Steven

The “Quadroon-Plaçage” Myth of Antebellum New Orleans: Anglo-American (Mis)interpretations of a French-Caribbean Phenomenon

Journal of Social History
Published Online: 2011-11-13
DOI: 10.1093/jsh/shr059

Kenneth Aslakson, Assistant Professor of History
Union College, Schenectady, New York

Although Thomas Jefferson’s likely affair with his slave, Sally Hemmings, has sparked controversy since James Callender first made it public in 1802, no place has attracted more attention with regard to miscegenation than Louisiana, and particularly its chief city of New Orleans. The general consensus holds that the inhabitants of New Orleans were unusually open about interracial relationships (or at least heterosexual ones in which the man was white), due to the cultural influence of the French and Spanish, and nothing epitomized this more than the city’s famed “quadroon balls,” dances open to young free women of mixed ancestry and white gentlemen of means. According to lore, the “lovely and refined” quadroon woman came to the ball “dressed in the most fashionable gown and chaperoned by her mother” looking for a wealthy white gentleman. “After dancing with a man, if the girl were attracted, he would be allowed to speak with her mother to make ‘arrangements’… [which] would include a furnished home that [the woman of color] would own and financial arrangements for her and any children.” The relationship thus established was called plaçage and the woman une placée. The relationship was temporary and ended when the man took a white wife. Nevertheless, a woman of color greatly benefitted from the patronage of an elite white man and often used the money bestowed upon her to establish herself in business “usually as a dressmaker, milliner, or by operating a boarding house.” Thus, the “quadroon balls” and plaçage relationships “provided a comfortable lifestyle for the quadroon ladies who had very limited options during the period.”

While this story of the quadroon balls and plaçage is enticing, it is based on scanty evidence, and, therefore, this paper will refer to it as the quadroon-plaçage myth. To be sure, something like the…

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