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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‘Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye,’ by Marie Mutsuki Mockett

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews on 2015-01-25 02:56Z by Steven

‘Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye,’ by Marie Mutsuki Mockett

Sunday Book Review
The New York Times
2015-01-23

Richard Lloyd Parry

Mockett, Marie Mutsuki, Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2015), 316 pp.

Among the many shocking things about tsunamis — along with their suddenness, violence and indiscriminate destruction of life and community — is how little there is to say about them. Man-made catastrophes, like wars or nuclear accidents, provide infinite opportunities for blame, recrimination and lessons learned. But natural disasters have no politics. One can quibble about the height of sea walls, the promptness of warnings and the quality of aid given to survivors. But such events have always occurred in countries like Japan, and always will. When the wave has receded, the dead have been counted and the slow work of recovery has begun, the pundits sheepishly quit the field and abandon it to the theologians, the spiritualists and the priests.

These are the people at the core of Marie Mutsuki Mockett’s book, which opens with the tsunami that struck northeastern Japan in 2011 and closes with a ghost. The act of God and the haunting frame an intriguing, but often awkward, travelogue through a landscape of Japanese spiritual belief, with forays into history, folklore and memoir. But the book’s central subject, deferred and evaded for much of its length, is the stubborn anguish of personal grief — the experience, as Mockett puts it, of being “kidnapped against one’s will and forced to go to some foreign country, all the while just longing to go back home.”

Mockett’s country is the United States, but she is a complicated, troubled American, and like many such journeys, hers is also a quest for identity. As the child of an American father, raised in California, she regards herself as fully of the West. From her Japanese mother she has acquired fluency in the language, although no sense of belonging in her maternal country. But she has the ability, fully available only to those on the margins, “to see through more than one set of eyes, if one learns to pay attention to one’s environment.” It is this gift of double-sightedness, of bringing to bear both the “dry” rationality of the West and the “sticky” sensibilities professed by the Japanese, that makes this the most interesting book so far to have come out of the disaster…

Read the entire review here.

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Mixed Race Identities: Written by Peter J. Aspinall and Miri Song

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom on 2015-01-24 02:49Z by Steven

Mixed Race Identities: Written by Peter J. Aspinall and Miri Song

The Kelvingrove Review
Issue 13: Dialogue Across Decades (2014-05-27)
5 pages

Mengxi Pang
Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity
University of Glasgow, United Kingdom

Aspinall, Peter J. and Miri Song, Mixed Race Identities (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 218 pp.

As the fastest growing population in Britain, the mixed race group has received increasing attention from academics in social sciences disciplines. The book Mixed Race Identities is one of the latest sociological contributions to mixed race studies, engaging in the ongoing debate on ‘race’, ethnicity and identities. This book succeeds in bringing attention to the British context of mixed race studies, a field that has been long dominated by research in the US. The two authors, Peter Aspinall and Miri Song, are leading researchers of mixed race studies in the UK, who published extensively on identities and identity politics of mixed race populations. Based on their ESRC-funded project ‘The ethnic options of mixed race people in Britain’, this book presents the analytical results derived from questionnaire surveys and follow-up, in-depth interviews with over three hundred mixed race participants from higher education institutions in England. The results depict the unique identity dilemmas faced by mixed race youths. Findings specifically identify how different types of mixed race people understand and articulate their identifications, and eventually question the salience of ‘race’ in shaping individuals’ lived experiences…

Read the entire review here.

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Racial Crossings: Race, Intermarriage, and the British Empire [Paterson Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Oceania on 2015-01-21 20:07Z by Steven

Racial Crossings: Race, Intermarriage, and the British Empire [Paterson Review]

The British Scholar Society
Book of The Month
November 2014

Lachy Paterson
University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Salesa, Damon Ieremia, Racial Crossings: Race, Intermarriage, and the Victorian British Empire (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). 308 pp. $US 45 (paperback).

Race has always been an important preoccupation in New Zealand society. In the country’s popular imagination, its past is predicated on national myths that it had the best race relations in the world, and that its Māori citizens were the best treated of all indigenous peoples. Intermarriage between Māori and the Pākehā settlers, a practice encouraged even prior to formal colonisation, was often given as evidence for such claims. Damon Salesa’s Racial Crossings is an exciting investigation of the theories, discourses and policies that underpinned intermarriage, and the broader colonial project of racial amalgamation.

The volume’s subtitle, Race, Intermarriage, and the Victorian British Empire, is a little misleading. The book is not a social history of intermarriage: indeed the story concerns itself more with the discourses of racial crossing, than the lives of the actual people doing the crossing. Its focus is on roughly four decades of New Zealand history, one preceding the Treaty of Waitangi (1840) and the three following. A reader will find little detail on the policies and practice of intermarriage of colonial India, Canada, Australia or South Africa, or even of New Zealand in the last three decades of Victoria’s reign. As Salesa notes, power was generally devolved to colonial governors, whose actions and policies were shaped by local conditions. Although conditions may have been localised, ideas flowed more freely around the Empire. New Zealand’s pertinence to “imperial” studies is that it was colonised when humanitarianism was flourishing. After earlier examples of destructive colonisation, Britain sought to protect New Zealand’s promising “aborigines” through civilisation and amalgamation. Although missionaries, officials both in Britain and New Zealand, intellectuals and settler politicians may have had differing (and sometimes competing) agenda, a general consensus prevailed that intermarriage would benefit both Māori and colonisation…

Read the entire review.

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China Dolls by Lisa See

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2015-01-18 03:09Z by Steven

China Dolls by Lisa See

Discover Nikkei
2015-01-15

Leslie Yamaguchi

Fans of best-selling author Lisa See will not be surprised by her diverse background, the source of the unique perspective readers inevitably find in each of her novels.

Born in Paris but raised and residing in Los Angeles for most of her life, she is part Chinese. Her great-great-grandfather came to the United States to work on the building of the transcontinental railroad, and her great-grandfather was the “godfather” or “patriarch” of Los Angeles’ Chinatown. About 400 members of her large Chinese American family currently live in the Los Angeles area.

Despite her appearance—red-haired and freckled—Lisa See has always been strongly influenced by her Chinese identity. In a recent interview, the author explained, “I don’t look at all Chinese, but I grew up in a very large Chinese-American family. My Chinese background influences everything in my life. It’s in how I raise my children, in what I eat, in how I remember the people in my family who’ve died. It’s in what I plant in my garden and how I decorate my house. I have a western doctor, but my main doctor is from China and practices traditional Chinese medicine.” Of course, her Chinese heritage is also an integral part of her writing.

See does not set out to educate her readers about Chinese culture; instead, she views her books as a reflection of her own personal journey, a journey in which her culture has played a significant role. “All writers are told to write what they know, and this is what I know. In many ways I straddle two cultures. I try to bring what I know from both cultures into my work. I have no way of knowing if this is true or not, but perhaps the American side of me is able to open a window into China and things Chinese for non-Chinese, while the Chinese side of me makes sure that what I’m writing is true to the Chinese culture without making it seem too ‘exotic’ or ‘foreign.’ In other words, what I really want people to get from my books is that all people on the planet share common life experiences—falling in love, getting married, having children, dying—and share common emotions—love, hate, greed, jealousy. These are the universals; the differences are in the particulars of customs and culture.”

Through these reflections about her writing, Lisa See captures the essence of her latest novel, China Dolls. Within the narrative, the author provides readers with a glimpse into the history of both her own Chinese American heritage as well as the Japanese American experience during World War II. The novel revolves around three Asian American women who meet at an audition at The Forbidden City, a nightclub and cabaret in San Francisco that featured Asian performers from the late 1930s to the 1950s. The three women—Grace Lee, Helen Fong, and Ruby Tom—share the role of narrators, creating a kind of symmetry within the novel which is itself divided into three sections—the Sun, the Moon, and the Truth…

Read the entire review here.

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A True History Full of Romance: Mixed marriages and ethnic identity in Dutch art, news media, and popular culture (1883–1955) by Marga Altena (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Europe, History on 2015-01-14 20:46Z by Steven

A True History Full of Romance: Mixed marriages and ethnic identity in Dutch art, news media, and popular culture (1883–1955) by Marga Altena (review)

Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History
Volume 15, Number 3, Winter 2014
DOI: 10.1353/cch.2014.0039

Eveline Buchheim, Researcher
NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Altena, Marga, A True History Full of Romance: Mixed Marriages and Ethnic Identity in Dutch Art, News Media, and Popular Culture (1883-1955) (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012).

Even before the Second World War, cases of interracial unions had been recorded in the Netherlands, but the greater part of the Dutch public in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries still considered these bonds extraordinary. If the possibility of such unions crossed the minds of common Dutch citizens at all, they were mainly associated with colonial life in the Dutch East Indies. Although certainly not unambiguous aspects of colonial life, mixed unions were part and parcel of the Dutch colonial experience. Even in this colonial context, however, unions of White women with Indigenous men were extremely unusual. A European woman who entered such a marriage excluded herself from the community of Europeans. In the Netherlands itself, the term “mixed marriages” was used during this period primarily to refer to unions either outside the individual’s social class or with spouses of a different religious background, an important distinguishing feature in strongly “pillarized” Dutch society. In her book, Altena presents three cases of Dutch White women who, against all odds, married men of color. They did so in a period when it was still quite unusual and—perhaps as a result of this uniqueness—all three of the analyzed marriages figured prominently in the news. The unions were also represented in other cultural media expressions such as fiction. This gives Altena the opportunity to analyze how ethnic identity was constructed in Dutch media from various angles.

Altena’s first case concerns the marriage of Frederick Taen, the son of a Chinese father and an English mother, to the Dutch woman Mia Cuypers. It is interesting to note that Taen’s partial European roots were apparently completely lost in the public representation. Was this something Taen did on purpose? He might have deemed Chinese roots favorable for his business trade. Cuypers was the daughter of a famous Dutch architect, P.J.H. Cuypers, known among other works for building the Rijksmuseum. The artistic background of the bride and the affluence of the groom made the union interesting enough to be represented in several instances of cultural expression. Mia Cuypers was a special woman in other respects as well; she went against the grain multiple times, first by marrying Frederick Taen, then by divorcing him, and, later, by not totally denying the misalliance.

The second case is the marriage of Johanna van Dommelen and Angus Montour (Twanietanekan), also known as American Horse, in 1906, the bride an unmarried mother from The Hague, the groom a Mohawk widower from eastern Canada. Altena analyzes the press coverage in both countries. She makes it very clear that for both the bride and the groom their union had several advantages, and shows how they used the media attention to improve their lives.

The last case that Altena describes is that of the marriage between Marie Borchert and Joseph Sylvester in 1928, in the town of Hengelo. Borchert was the daughter of a well-to-do local family, Sylvester a salesman and entertainer. This couple clearly orchestrated their public performance. This is understandable partly because of how Sylvester earned a living. The case gets really interesting when Altena recalls how the couple used press coverage to raise awareness among their fellow citizens about the use of Black stereotypes.

By analyzing the three marriages on the basis of how they figured in the public domain, Altena wanted to investigate the representation of ethnic identity in Dutch culture between 1883 and 1955. Altena’s period of research seems rather arbitrary, and primarily relates to events in the personal lives of the three couples. Taen and Cuypers met in 1883 at the International Colonial and Export Trade Exhibition in Amsterdam. The year 1955 marks Joseph Sylvester’s death. In her analysis, Altena focuses on the micro-histories and does not pay much attention to the influence of the spirit of the age under investigation. Her paragraph on the historical and sociocultural context provides a broad outline, but does not really elaborate on the appraisal or disapproval of foreigners in relation to larger historical events. There is no special attention paid to the changing colonial relationship between the Dutch East Indies and the Netherlands of the late nineteenth and early…

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‘A Tale of Two Plantations,’ by Richard S. Dunn

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2015-01-04 18:21Z by Steven

‘A Tale of Two Plantations,’ by Richard S. Dunn

Sunday Rook Review
The New York Times
2015-01-02

Greg Grandin, Professor of History
New York University

Dunn, Richard S., A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014).

For enslaved peoples in the New World, it was always the worst of times. Whether captured in Africa or born into bondage in the Americas, slaves suffered unimaginable torments and indignities. Yet the specific form their miseries took, as the historian Richard S. Dunn shows in his painstakingly researched “A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia,” depended on whether one was a slave in the British Caribbean or in the United States. The contrasts between the two slave societies were many, covering family life, religious beliefs and labor practices. But one difference overrode all others. In the Caribbean, white masters treated the slaves like “disposable cogs in a machine,” working them to death on sugar plantations and then replacing them with fresh stock from Africa. In the United States, white masters treated their slaves like the machine itself — a breeding machine.

Dunn began working on this comparative study in the 1970s, around the time historians like Winthrop D. Jordan, Edmund S. Morgan and Eugene D. Genovese were revolutionizing the study of American slavery. Drawing on Freud, Marx and other social theorists, these scholars painted what Dunn calls the “big picture,” capturing the psychosexual terror, economic exploitation, resistance, and emotional and social dependency inherent in the master-slave relation.

Decades of extensive research led Dunn, a professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, in a different direction, away from making large historical claims or speculating about the “interiority” of slavery’s victims. Instead, he’s opted to stay close to the facts, using demographic methods to reconstruct “the individual lives and collective experiences of some 2,000 slaves on two large plantations” — Mesopotamia, which grew sugar on the western coastal plain of Jamaica, and Mount Airy, a tobacco and grain estate on the Rappahannock River in Virginia’s Northern Neck region — “during the final three generations of slavery in both places.”…

…Likewise, Dunn’s discussion of interracial sex seems tone deaf to decades of scholarship on the subject. Forty years ago, Winthrop D. Jordan wrote about the libidinal foundations of white supremacy in America. More recently, the historians Jennifer L. Morgan and Diana Paton have explored the linkages between ideology, law and sexual domination in slave societies. Dunn devotes a chapter each to two slave women, empathetically tracing their family history and considering the many hardships they endured. He mentions rape and “predatory” whites and discusses the sharp differences in the way mixed-race offspring were treated on the two plantations. Yet at times he plays down the varieties of sexual coercion that enslaved women lived under. At one point, he calls the relationship between a white overseer, his black “mistress” and his distraught wife a “ménage à trois.”…

Read the entire review here.

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‘Everything I Never Told You’ by Celeste Ng: Unspoken Thoughts About Being Mixed-Race

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2014-12-30 00:30Z by Steven

‘Everything I Never Told You’ by Celeste Ng: Unspoken Thoughts About Being Mixed-Race

Hapa Mama: Asian Fusion Family and Food
2014-12-28

Grace Hwang Lynch

Celeste Ng’s debut novel Everything I Never Told You: A Novel has been at the top of many best books of 2014 lists — and for good reason. It’s a quick read, without feeling cheap. It’s a mystery, without falling into genre. It’s a critique of race in the United States, without sounding shrill or academic.

The small Ohio college town in 1977 in which the Lee family lives will feel familiar to any Asian child who grew up in the Midwest. The story opens with the stark sentence “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” Starting from a description of a very ordinary family breakfast, Ng gives us glimpses into the world created by the marriage of Marilyn and James Lee.

The couple meets at Harvard, where Chinese American James is a Ph.D. student and Marilyn, who is white, is his student. Their whirlwind romance leads to a shotgun wedding in 1958, in a sly nod to Loving v. Virginia. When Marilyn’s mother, a Southern white single-mother, meets James on the wedding day, she pulls her daughter aside.

It would have been easier if her mother had used a slur. It would have been easier if she had insulted James outright, if she had said he was too short or too poor or not accomplished enough. But all her mother said, over and over, was, “It’s not right, Marilyn. It’s not right.” Leaving it unnamed, hanging in the air between them.

These doubts about the suitability of an interracial marriage and the inability of society to grasp mixed-race identity pop up over and over throughout the novel. In the 1970s Midwestern town Ng conjures up, there are only white and not white. There are so many aspects of this novel I can’t stop thinking about, from the threads of Betty Crocker homemaker versus 1970s feminism to the deft way Ng has crafted the details to unfold in sort of a spiral fashion. But I am most interested in the undercurrent of interracial marriage, assimilation and mixed-race identity…

Read the entire review here.

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‘Race Unmasked’ explores science’s racial past, present

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2014-12-29 02:41Z by Steven

‘Race Unmasked’ explores science’s racial past, present

Science News: Magazine of the Society for Science & The Public
2014-11-30
Magazine Issue: Volume 186, Number 12, December 13, 2014

Bryan Bello, Editorial Assistant

Race Unmasked: Biology and Race in the 20th Century. Michael Yudell. Columbia University Press, $40

It’s 1921 and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City is packed with visitors eager to learn about the hot science of eugenics. AMNH staff dubs its conference and exhibit “the most important scientific meeting ever held in the museum.” In his new book, Yudell, a historian of public health, argues that the complicated interaction of science and race visible in the eugenics movement is still playing out. “Thinking in the natural sciences has influenced the continued evolution of racist ideology in the United States,” he writes.

An inversion also holds true: Racist ideology has shaped — and continues to sway — the evolution of science. The result is a constant trade-off of influence between popular culture and science.

Yudell dissects key moments in innovation. For example, Mendelian genetics arose and was appropriated by eugenicists to falsely link complex personal attributes to heredity.  In addition, by midcentury, leading anthropologists accepted Africa as the birthplace of the genus Homo, but then several researchers spun off theories positing that different races are Homo sapiens subspecies…

Read the entire article here.

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Lacey Schwartz came to terms with her true racial identity in ‘Little White Lie’

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2014-12-23 14:38Z by Steven

Lacey Schwartz came to terms with her true racial identity in ‘Little White Lie’

The New York Daily News
2014-11-30

Justin Rocket Silverman, Senior Features Writer

Documentary film chronicles how she grew up believing she was a white Jewish girl and then learned her biological father was black

Lacey Schwartz didn’t know she was black — until the college she applied to classified her as that.

“I come from a long line of New York Jews,” the 37-year-old filmmaker says in “Little White Lie,” her new documentary feature. “I wasn’t pretending to be something I wasn’t. I actually grew up believing I was white.”

The story of how Schwartz came to understand her real identity is the subject of “Little White Lie,” now playing in select theaters. The movie is more than a decade in the making, as Schwartz began filming herself in her college dorm room and in sessions with her therapist, often in tears, as she struggled to understand who, and what, she is.

That story began in 1968, the year her white Jewish parents were married. Her mom got a job that same year at a playground in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, and met a black man there who would become Schwartz’s biological father. But Schwartz’s mom never told her husband that her child wasn’t really his. Instead, the baby’s dark complexion was explained as a genetic echo of an Italian grandfather…

Read the entire article here.

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