This can be a excerpt from Signature Pedagogies in Worldwide Relations. Get your free obtain of the e-book from E-International Relations.

How are we presupposed to learn to perform the duty condoned by Sen (first quote under) if we’re busily reproducing the state of affairs described by Hagmann (second quote under)? Talking with others requires extra than simply language acquisition and an openness to converse. In addition to acknowledging ontological pluralism, Sen’s plea prods us to construct the capability to fittingly traverse worlds constituted by distinct, elementary existential suppositions. This chapter asserts that IR college students should develop into savvy in making use of a various ontological toolset to have interaction with lifeways primarily based on incommensurate, elementary existential assumptions. As a pedagogical aim, nevertheless, fostering ontological agility shouldn’t be possible in a single semester as a result of it requires denaturalizing our most elementary existential assumptions, studying tips on how to apply others, and changing into nimble at doing so. Amongst undergraduate, college students it’s potential to satisfy the next preliminary steps needed for producing ontological competence whereas additionally reaching a given Worldwide Relations (IR) concept course’s common set of studying aims: (a) educate a pluralized understanding of ontology, (b) make college students, by the metaphor of “fishbowls,” conversant with intersubjectively co-constituted timespacescapes that collectively represent a pluriverse of worlds, and (c) construct pupil tolerance to existential discomfort.

Our process as social scientists is to account for the multiplicity of how by which the political world round us is considered and skilled – Somdeep Sen (2020).

College students of worldwide politics are led to behave on imageries of Africa, Islam, the Balkans, China, and some other seemingly ‘unique’ or ‘distant’ area or subject, with out an consciousness of the methods by which these imageries have been intimately coloured by Western authors and their respective histories, trajectories, values, and world views. As an alternative of talking with others about political points, college students of world politics are primarily induced to talk about others and their political subjects – Jonas Hagmann (2015, 3).

On this e-book, Jan Lüdert goals to determine the “floor,” “deep,” and “implicit constructions” of what Shulman (2005, 54) calls a signature pedagogy in IR (Lüdert 2016). He requested us to debate the “concrete and sensible acts of educating and studying IR,” the “implicit and specific assumptions” that “we impart to college students in regards to the world of politics,” and the “values and beliefs” we maintain whereas making ready college students for a variety of potential careers. This chapter, in response, opinions pertinent parts on all three ranges of “existential calisthenics,” a signature pedagogical program that prepares college students to develop into ontologically agile.

It’s prudent to forewarn that whereas the transversal meta-objective for all of my programs described right here shouldn’t be incompatible with the aim of signature pedagogies¾“to switch expertise [to students] of how to assume, to carry out and to behave with integrity of their skilled work” (Shulman 2005, 52)¾the pedagogical technique of fostering ontological agility could not align nicely with the proposal to outline a concerted set of pedagogical sensibilities within the IR classroom. This essay begins with the premise that “the elemental methods by which future practitioners [have been getting] educated for his or her new professions” (Shulman 2005, 52) in IR have been ontologically myopic and thus impair us from partaking fruitfully with otherwise co-constituted timespacescapes. Alternatively, if we aren’t attempting to standardize “pedagogical content material information,” however are as a substitute inculcating a sensitivity towards and willingness to take care of the area for a plethora of voices (Lüdert, this quantity), then the next may symbolize one method of making ready college students to have interaction extra successfully with multiplicity and distinction. With the principle that this undertaking under no circumstances seeks to develop into an overarching, singular technique, the primary half of the chapter explores the central assumptions, values, and beliefs that drive the impulse to foster ontological pluralism and agility, earlier than reviewing some concrete pedagogical methods within the second.

Disciplinary Myopia: A Pedagogical Name to Motion

As a self-discipline, IR is exclusive in that it aspires to have interaction, perceive, and even at occasions clarify world politics, however it cultivates a parochial perspective towards Others who contribute to these politics equally, but who act primarily based on very disparate elementary existential assumptions (Chakrabarty, 2000; Agathangelou and Ling 2004; Shani 2008; Tickner and Wæver 2009; Acharya and Buzan 2010; Nayak and Selbin 2010; Shilliam 2015).[1] Critiques have been mountingly launched over the previous 40 years that the self-discipline has been traditionally incapable of partaking different types of being and understanding in methods that don’t contain additional exacerbating epistemic violence.[2] For a self-discipline that seeks to lower battle and/or enhance peace worldwide, this declare is bitterly ironic.

Wemheuer-Vogelaar and her colleagues (2020, 17) conclude, upon concisely reviewing the non-, post-, and past Western debates, that diversifying the self-discipline doesn’t solely contain analysis: “The IR analysis group’s efforts to create a extra inclusive self-discipline can solely be everlasting if [the global IR] debate is taken to the classroom.” I couldn’t agree extra, however there are ontological the reason why the self-discipline suffers from parochialism. So, earlier than we carry traditionally silenced voices that depart from distinct, elementary existential commitments into the self-discipline, it should first develop into ontologically plural.

In additional conventional IR settings, we sometimes study and educate approaches that reaffirm analyzing multiplicity by a singular ontological register. This register—one which encompasses each dualist and monist approaches within the self-discipline and that informs its numerous methodological methods—is monopolized by the idea of separation because the primordial situation of existence. That’s, even essentially the most heated disciplinary debates on ontology that search to legitimize different ontological schemes past these with positivist underpinnings[3] nonetheless maintain onto an underlying dedication to separation previous to any dedication to interconnection, be it the anthropomorphism of post-structuralism or the continued insistence on differentiating between topics and objects and human and non-human (even when enmeshed and co-constitutive) within the new materialisms. The predominant, separation-based register makes us blind to different potential ontological configurations by its reductionist nature and subsequently incapable of greedy the strong nature of ideas borne by incommensurate, elementary existential commitments.

This results in two points that the next pedagogical technique seeks to mitigate. First, ontological reductionism begets exclusion, seize, and domination. In IR, ontological blind spots and silences translate into types of epistemic violence within the classroom and into literature and coverage that reinforce exclusionary practices. Second, having too slender a set of existential instruments, particularly one produced by a reductionist register, is overly dangerous when dealing with in the present day’s accelerated environmental, social, political, and technological complexity. Having just one ontological scheme with which to function implies that most individuals are simply overwhelmed and develop into inclined to types of extremism, fundamentalism, and/or violence in response.

We will not afford to stay “unknowingly” devoted to separation as the one primordial situation of existence solely as a result of its use is so predominant and lens so reductionist that we can not even acknowledge, a lot much less respect, different assumptions that represent different co-created worlds.[4] Right here is the place academia and the IR self-discipline may play an important mitigating function in our skill to outlive as a species by proactively instructing folks to develop into comfy with shifting ontological schemes in order that they might develop into versatile in and adaptable to new circumstances. Nevertheless, the pedagogical crucial to arrange college students to have interaction with the multiplicity of distinct types of being/considering/doing that give form to world politics implies an overhaul throughout the self-discipline itself first. As students and professors within the self-discipline, we would wish to develop into excruciatingly conscious of the hyperlink between our specific configuration of elementary existential assumptions and their influence on how we “world.” Then we would wish to acknowledge that multiple potential primordial situation of existence exists then hone ontological agility ourselves by studying tips on how to additionally embrace interconnection previous to any presupposition of separation.

Getting access to and understanding tips on how to use a plural ontological register gives a number of advantages. First, it permits us to acknowledge that every particular person holds pricey a selected configuration of existential assumptions that filters how they make sense of the world and in accordance with which they direct their very important life drive to co-create. From there, we will determine how molds deriving from different elementary existential commitments present radically distinct panoramas with their very own affordances and limitations. The contrasts offered by these mirrors then allow recognizing how our personal existential assumptions crucially restrict and form in particular and common methods what we see as a problem and the vary of potential methods that we will think about in response. By exhibiting how distinct, primordial existential assumptions translate into disparate lifeways which are neither commensurate nor simply grasped by a non-synonymous ontological register, we make the area obtainable to grasp that there are distinct methods of doing issues and that none is the one reply to all. This can be a essential step for cultivating empathy, the importance of which “has been largely uncared for within the subject of IR… in a educating or classroom setting” (Arian 2020, 23). One vital benefit has develop into evident by my educating context. Since 2005, I’ve labored at two universities in Ecuador as a white girl, originating from and educated in the USA. Along with exhibiting me first-hand why the claims initially are each actual and disconcerting, my embodied expertise in a context of deeply torn social cloth and a continuously replaying chuchaki colonial, or colonial hangover, has proven me how fostering ontological pluralism may help rebuild socio-cultural-historical shallowness in post-colonial contexts.

Navnita Chadha Behera (2020, 25–27) reinforces the precept of ontological pluralism in her personal post-colonial IR classroom in India by “touring again in time” together with her college students. There, she covers each “the historical past (learn the European historical past that kinds the bedrock of the meta narratives and theories of IR) and theirs (learn native histories)” (26) to “make college students conscious that the universe for considering by the information classes shouldn’t be singular however plural” (27). By juxtaposing IR “textbook formulations towards our collectively shared ‘pasts’ and ‘current lived experiences,’” Behera demonstrates “how a few of these information classes, which the disciplinary practices of IR take without any consideration, got here to be constituted within the first place—traditionally, socially, and politically.” College students “additionally study that in the event that they select to incorporate a ‘non-dualistic mode of considering,’ as prompt by the Indian traditions, for understanding the world solid in a ‘dualistic,’ ‘either-or,’ ‘oppositional mode of considering,’ distinction could not or essentially be an a priori supply of friction and risk.” Behera’s instance demonstrates how we will each engender studying by distinction and underscore the pivotal significance of lifeways which have undergone colonization.

As a result of I’ve seen how nicely this coaching works in encouraging college students to look at any set of circumstances from a wide range of angles and in bolstering their capability for empathy and innovation, I’ve developed strategies to deliberately set off the denaturalization course of whereas on the similar time supporting college students as they transfer by their emotional reactions all through the semester and past. Under, I current some primary pedagogical instruments for constructing ontological competence amongst undergraduate IR college students, together with the fishbowl metaphor, modes of engagement, methodology of distinction, and guided existential discomfort.

Existential Calisthenics: A Pedagogical Program for Fostering Ontological Agility

Let’s face it, most human beings, undergraduate college students included, like with the ability to depend on sure parameters of their given modus operandi. Whereas most are paying a price to study, they aren’t often requesting to have their existential boat fully rocked. But getting out of IR’s vicious cycle of regularly reproducing ontological parochialism requires simply that. Sadly, the advantages of partaking in existential calisthenics will not be as apparent because the bodily model, though each will be painful notably at first. Which means college students can not think about the place you take them or why. It’s laborious for them to see that they’re constantly embracing sure elementary existential assumptions, that this configuration of assumptions intimately impacts how they take part in their very own ontological fishbowl (that’s, how and what they think about, understand, interpret, strategize about, and act upon), and that making these assumptions and never others is definitely a alternative. Furthermore, as a result of the collectively co-constituted timespacescape, or fishbowl, by which they function is so naturalized, they haven’t any obvious cause to ponder others as inhabiting otherwise constituted worlds particularly when the one factor apparently separating them is air. In any case, others appear to be doing the identical issues—being human, discovering meals and shelter, relating, reproducing, and many others. It’s tough to appreciate that what appear to be the “parallel fruits” of one other lifestyle—even when acknowledged as distinct cultural artifacts—are literally borne by a radically distinct logic primarily based on different elementary existential assumptions.

Initially, then, my job is to indicate that some ways of understanding existence can be found and that it’s potential to discern the contours of the fishbowl they inhabit by distinction with others. As soon as they cognitively perceive that beings from different fishbowls don’t essentially comply with the identical logic that they take without any consideration, it’s then potential to suggest that the lens they’ve discovered to make use of may not be absolutely outfitted to grasp concepts or artifacts popping out of different fishbowls. At this level, in my “Modern IR Theories” course, for instance, I’d carry within the post-Western literature to ponder collectively what it’d imply for an educational self-discipline that focuses on world politics to not be capable of understand, not to mention perceive, different lifeways which are radically distinct from our personal.

Actively “provincializing” the predominant ontological register of the IR self-discipline and broader academic system basically needs to be accompanied by important reminders. First, college students haven’t any cause to really feel dangerous or responsible for a way they’ve been raised. Moreover, my job is to not educate them that one specific lifestyle is sweet and one other dangerous. This didactic train is about recognizing multiplicity. Ultimately, they get to embrace the theoretical present that the majority resonates with them. In the interim, although, they research many disparate theoretical views to learn the way sure existential assumptions afford some possible prospects and disallow others, and the way every implies radically distinct methods for partaking existence.

In parallel style, I introduce the software of existential modes of engagement. Worry is the predominantly utilized mode in IR, and it may be illustrated simply by the Leviathan, the place Hobbes (1996, 26–30, 38) articulates explicitly how he encounters the totally different Different by concern. Since how we method distinction begins on the ontological stage, it’s crucial as an instance how sure elementary existential assumptions encourage the rejection of distinction and the next drive to annihilate it, whereas others encourage its embrace and an openness to take a seat in rigidity with it. The latter induces us to make use of curiosity, by which we will ask plenty of questions with out figuring out beforehand whether or not an encountered Different shall be good or dangerous and calls us to be very current to search out out what we will study from the distinction. After prodding college students to conjure different modes of engagement, I encourage them to determine their most often employed mode and to discover how they really feel once they deliberately use different modes. Whereas, at first, this train could seem irrelevant to the research of IR, it’s a pivotal preliminary step in nudging college students to experiment on the existential stage in order that they develop into ever-more conscious of how their elementary existential assumptions form how they have interaction with all that’s.

The content material usually taught and reproduced throughout the IR self-discipline constitutes the fodder for my work. In addition to demonstrating how every theorization depends on a selected ontological structure, I assist college students find patterns rising out of traditionally shared configurations of ontological commitments in order that they might start to conceive of how these configurations exert worlding results. In a single instance, I present how embracing separation because the primordial situation of existence generates a typical logic that performs out in distinct methods in each English Faculty and Marxist theorizing (Bull 2002; Linklater 1996; Cox 1996). Each make the most of linear notions of time and “teleological measuring sticks,” or arbitrary social constructions conceived as vertical arrows extending between two (never-to-be-reached) imagined circumstances with the one on the prime deemed superior and on the backside the inferior one to be averted (Trownsell 2013, 290–318). In each literatures, we additionally discover a common(ized) finish aim of remodeling the system to one thing higher conceived in cosmopolitan (and, subsequently, ethnocentric) phrases. I focus college students’ consideration on how, regardless of the very distinct problematics that motivated Bull’s and Marx and Engels’ work, every respective argument and corresponding methods are devoted to a selected shared set of existential assumptions.

In circumstances like this, it’s tough to totally grasp what I’m speaking about with no contrasting backdrop. In any case, I’m attempting to get them to acknowledge the contours of the naturalized fishbowl by which they’ve been indoctrinated and the character of the actual water by which they swim. Consequently, to make evident how every concept turns into potential by a selected logic afforded by distinct configurations of existential assumptions and never others, I take advantage of the methodology of distinction to mirror examples forwards and backwards. The circle that I open with the research of worldwide society and additional sketch after we get to the Communist Worldwide will be closed by the distinction offered by queer concept, the place it turns into evident that the “teleological measuring stick” is barely a technique of studying and responding to complementary opposites.

To show college students that a number of ontological readings exist and that they’ve radically totally different implications relying on the actual configuration of existential assumptions used to understand and perceive them, I make clear the hyperlink between a elementary assumption and its corresponding logic. For example, I present how heteronormativity is the fruit of embracing separation as a result of focus it generates on bodily our bodies as separable classes, which leads us to wish to discuss gender and sexuality by way of women and men as embodied entities. The ontological panorama afforded by separation additionally encourages a logic of either-or, which drives the necessity to consider issues or conditions by way of better-worse in order to know tips on how to choose amongst alternate options. We will see, then, how this logic drives the marginalization and violence focused at those that don’t abide by the heteronormative metanarrative. In distinction, when interconnection is embraced, the either-or logic shouldn’t be even existentially potential, neither is the give attention to “in-corp-orated” traits. As an alternative, all beings are manifestations of the dynamic interaction between each female and masculine energetic impulses. That’s, every physique is constituted by each masculine and female parts. Along with educating Weber’s (2014, 598) queer logic of the and/or, I take advantage of examples from robustly relational Andean philosophy, a contextually vital distinction, to differentiate between the implications of studying binaries as dualities/dualisms by the lens of separation and as parity-based relations by interconnection (Lajo 2004, 81–85).

This methodology of distinction with different methods of seeing a seemingly comparable scenario is crucial for recognizing one’s personal fishbowl or method of being on this planet. This course of although, as we will think about within the case of denaturalizing heteronormativity for somebody who has by no means been taught to query it, shouldn’t be with out its emotional reactions. Changing into ontologically literate calls for studying to develop into comfy with being uncomfortable on an existential stage. As such, I take care to generate an setting of guided existential discomfort that gives the required help as college students study to maneuver by that discomfort.

On this spirit, every course begins with a forewarning:

All through this semester, be ready to really feel uncomfortable, uncomfortable with me, uncomfortable with you, with society, with the way in which you have been raised, with the way you perceive existence, with the way in which you may have been studying about IR till now… My aim is that will help you develop into comfy with being uncomfortable. It’ll just about take the entire semester to get to the purpose the place you perceive why you’re going by this. All of the whereas I shall be deliberately triggering your elementary perception techniques which have been formed by cultural, historic, socioeconomic, and tutorial elements.

I lend the discomfort a goal:

If you really feel uncomfortable in response to no matter comes up in school, it signifies that we now have struck a chord with an thought or perception constitutive of your specific fishbowl. That is really a superb factor, as a result of it flags for us the place to pause and what to look at extra rigorously.[5]

As a multidimensional educator, it is usually pertinent to assessment the potential vary of emotional responses that may surge forth on the premise of this ontological coaching, akin to resistance, shutting out, instability, sensations of betrayal or of getting been misled, and the potential exacerbation of psychological instability. Because of the a number of referrals I make each semester, I add:

Lots of you is probably not in a spot to face this problem, so I shall be reminding you repeatedly that I’ve connections with the workers in psychological companies and might get you an appointment in a short time within the occasion that the concepts introduced listed below are “an excessive amount of” for the place you end up by yourself life path.

I additionally present coping methods. For example, as a result of I try to have college students acknowledge existential prospects occluded by their present (predominant) ontological filter, they need to confront admitting “I don’t know” to themselves or to me way more usually than regular. When utilizing the naturalized register of separation, having to say “I don’t know” repeatedly solely appears to reaffirm the existential supposition of uncertainty that derives from embracing separation within the first place and to justify the types of existential nervousness that accompany it. To mitigate, we explicitly talk about their response and suggest alternate options:

How does it make you’re feeling to say “I don’t know”?

Does the sensation final perpetually?


Wouldn’t it be potential so that you can study to take a deep breath the second which you can really feel your self slipping into existential angst and give attention to changing into comfy with sitting in an area of ”not understanding?” As soon as we will sit in rigidity with the momentary situation of not understanding, is it potential to name on one other mode of engagement as a substitute of concern?

The concept is to supply an alternative choice to drowning in an emotional response. They will develop into an observer of their response and study the way it derives from a selected constellation of existential assumptions.

If hitting the emotional wall of “I don’t know” will be reinterpreted as a set off, what may it educate us about ourselves, about our fishbowl? Can we acknowledge that our response is predicated on existential assumptions which have been so naturalized that we hardly acknowledge them or think about that we now have a alternative within the matter? Is it potential to see our emotional response as a discovered response? In that case, can we re-qualify uncertainty as an existential assumption itself, a hypothetical risk versus cosmic regulation? Can we assume in any other case? This maneuver will enable us to vary it, identical to that (or maintain onto it once more, identical to that). You will need to get to the purpose of permitting your self to acknowledge that you simply have no idea proper this very second with out the emotional set off, as a result of this can allow you to concentrate to the brand new info that involves you as a part of the method of formulating a solution.

Not everybody shall be enthusiastic about this sort of coaching or in regards to the prospect of questioning their foundational assumptions. Actually, many is not going to be. After they begin to really feel discomfort, they may search to keep away from each it and the supply of ache, a.okay.a., the professor. Uncomfortable silences can even come up. These can all be was key educating moments. Pedagogically, the duty turns into considered one of understanding tips on how to maintain rigidity in a classroom and handle it in order to generate an setting of distinction that encourages progress. Over time, it’s potential to acknowledge which silences require endurance, which name for a re-stating, which could be finest to have another person clarify what was simply coated in their very own phrases, and which of them require emotional processing with questions like, “Does anybody wish to discuss how this dialogue makes them really feel?” General, although, the exercise of deliberately discomforting your college students shouldn’t be for the faint of coronary heart. Neither is it a method to make use of if you’re in search of to be the preferred professor. Nonetheless, the numerous shifts in perspective that I’ve witnessed amongst college students, whereby they don’t really feel obligated to react out of concern or anger within the face of distinction, are enough motivation for me to maintain teaching them by existential calisthenics.

The pedagogical instruments reviewed above present a really small window into the type of work that we have to undertake as a self-discipline to determine ontological literacy, which extends from recognizing that there are a number of methods for being, working, and worlding to with the ability to learn distinct types of worlding and determine the elemental existential assumptions that afford them. As soon as college students notice that they’ve a alternative in regards to the assumptions they embrace and that the standards behind their judgments concerning others obey specific ontological logics which are not common, they are going to be able to take “existential calisthenics” to the subsequent stage. This, nevertheless, doesn’t happen till after their first semester with me. At that time, I encourage them to attempt making use of one assumption now and one other at one other time in comparable circumstances to see how they resonate otherwise. By evaluating and contrasting the results of utilizing one primordial assumption and the opposite, they’ll acknowledge the very direct influence that their embraced assumptions have on how we co-create. They could come to the conclusion that we all reply sure existential questions so constantly that we have develop into unaware that there are prior questions that we are continuously answering and that all of us, actively or inactively, continuously make assumptions that form the sorts of worlds that develop into potential. This train in studying in regards to the numerous methods of assuming and collaborating on this planet prepares them to ultimately take duty for the existential commitments they select to embrace and for the corresponding implications incurred.

In a subject constituted by numerous types of worlding that contribute to websites of competition, it’s crucial to have college students endure an existential calisthenics program whereas they’re being taught in regards to the theories that populate the self-discipline.

This chapter asserts that it’s our pedagogical obligation to show future graduates of IR packages tips on how to be ontologically plural and endow them with the essential life ability of ontological resilience and flexibility, which is able to help them to have interaction multiplicity and complexity extra successfully. Hopefully, readers shall be impressed to mirror on how their very own educating and studying praxis may reinforce the disciplinary ontological myopia that drives college students to see the world from a reductionist ontological standpoint and to ponder how we, as energetic co-creators, wish to contribute to the worlds of IR in our educating.


[1] Manuela Picq (2013, 445) has described it thus: ‘Critics accuse IR of two important, interrelated sins. The primary is an ingrained hegemony. IR has lengthy been accused of US-centrism, as when Stanley Hoffmann (1977) described it as an American social science. … Associated to this primary critique is the cost that IR is out of contact with many vital points on this planet due to its slender disciplinary method. Scholarly dominance implies a sure conceptual parochialism, with inevitable epistemological implications. The research of Worldwide Relations, it seems, is usually not all that worldly.’ I emphasize right here that this dominance stems from a selected shared configuration of elementary existential assumptions.

[2] The feminist, queer, post-colonial, decolonial, indigenous, post-Western, post-human, and inexperienced IR literatures have proven the systematic method by which numerous “totally different Others” have been marginalized. Traditionally affected human clusters embody indigenous teams, political/ethnic minorities, enslaved teams, trafficked teams, refugees, folks with disabilities, and individuals of distinct genders, sexual orientations, religions, and many others., whereas within the nonhuman realm, ecosystems, minerals, local weather patterns, flora, and fauna have been repeatedly and systematically excluded from consideration within the self-discipline. For a succinct assessment of the ethnocentric biases extant in what Shilliam (2015, 13) calls the “colonial science” of IR, see Capan (2016). Relating to anthropocentric biases, see Chandler, Müller and Rothe (2021).

[3] Some basic ontological arguments embody Walker (1992), Patomäki and Wight (2000), and Jackson (2011).

[4] With the post-positivist flip has come a flourishing of beforehand silenced voices, which have been completely essential for opening up the self-discipline. But these voices nonetheless are divided alongside categorical strains even when typically handled intersectionally. Right here, I’m not referring to a selected variety of voice; I’m referring to how the elemental existential commitments collectively shared in sure worlds beget fruits which are ontologically incommensurate with these borne by different ontological registers.

[5] At occasions when the triggering turns into too intense or once I level to one thing particular about Ecuadorian tradition that may hit too near house, I’m fast to concurrently acknowledge my very own inherited chuchakis with which I personally wrestle, like “the Protestant work ethic.”


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