Lebanese American University

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First Day, first session:

Becoming "Syrian" in America: A global geography of nation and ethnicity

Prof. Akram Khater

Abstract: Most studies of the rise of Lebanese or Syrian nationalisms have focused on the role of the Ottomans, French and/or indigenous elites. While these are certainly important elements in the shaping, they remain incomplete in explaining the spread of such beyond elites, and more importantly they do not wholly account for the particular contours of these nationalisms. This paper seeks to transcend these limitations by examining the role that immigration from Mount Lebanon played in the making of the “modern Syrian” ethnic identity. My intention is to explore how encounters with “Western” societies required immigrants to define themselves as “modern Syrians” (with new ideas of race, gender, public space and family) different from “Westerners” and those left behind in the Eastern Mediterranean. I will discuss how these conceptions of ethnicity as well as other ideas were exchanged and developed through global networks of immigrants and were eventually brought back to Mount Lebanon. In other words, I will argue here that Lebanon as a geographical and cultural place was constructed as much in the mahjar as it was in the physical space we label “Lebanon” on the map of the Middle East.

Becoming Political in Diaspora: Assessing the Beginnings of Syrian-Lebanese State-directed Political Claim Making in Canada

Brian Aboud

Abstract: Around the year 1913, Syrian-Lebanese immigrants first became collective political actors in the context of Canadian national affairs.  It was at this time that several members of the Montreal community – the oldest in Canada and, then, also the largest – undertook in an organized, collective way to challenge the Canadian state directly over immigration measures that they saw as discriminatory and as harmful to their interests.  This undertaking, which aimed at challenging immigration regulations, occurred some thirty years after Syrian-Lebanese immigrants had first settled in Canada.  It also marked the beginning of a struggle over immigration regulations that would endure on and off and in different forms for the next forty to fifty years. This paper examines this particular development in the history of the Syrian-Lebanese minority collectivity in Canada, when, political agency among its members changed from being internally and locally focused (on intra-communal affairs and governance) to externally focused (on the Canadian state, especially immigration authorities) and, in conjunction, when its power relationship with the Canadian state also changed. The paper carries out this examination with a view to achieving several interconnected aims:

Transnational Political Activities of the Lebanese Community in Montreal

Nada Saghie

Abstract: Lebanese immigration to Canada started in the 19th century and peaked during the Lebanese civil war (1975-90), since the Canadian immigration procedures during the 1980s facilitated it. According to the official Canadian census of 2001, 45.8% of the Canadian Lebanese community (48990 people) is based in Quebec, and 92% of them reside in Montreal. In comparison with other immigrant communities, Lebanese families are socially and economically relatively well integrated in the French province. In fact, most of their members are fluent in at least one of the two official languages; possess a technical or university diploma and their annual wages kept increasing over the years.
The Lebanese community has also succeeded in establishing important social, political, economic and religious networks that link the members of the community in the host society with their country of origin. In the political field, numerous Lebanese political parties provide the opportunity for immigrants to stay in touch with the political developments in their country of origin, and to react accordingly. Parties like Amal, the Free Patriotic Movement, the Future Movement, Hezbollah, Kataeb, and Lebanese Forces are well represented in Montreal; they have both official and unofficial branches in the francophone metropolis in which they organize different types of social and political activities.
Through the first partial results obtained from a qualitative sociological research based on interviews conducted with the members of this community, this paper will try to examine and analyze the reasons and motives behind joining the existing political parties while living abroad. It investigates the factors which determine the membership and highlights the implied duties of the activities.

Lebanese Politics in the Diaspora: An Early Historical Overview From Argentina

Maria Lagrono-Narbona Del Mar

Abstract: This paper provides a historical overview of the early Lebanese nationalist movements in Argentina from the years of World War I throughout the first decade of the French Mandate. Lebanese emigrants in Argentina, similar to their counterparts in the Americas, actively participated in the events related to the formation of the Lebanese state under a French Mandate in the aftermath of World War I.
Lebanese emigrants politics at the time echoed the competing nationalist discourses of their counterparts in other parts of the world and Lebanon. These discourses revolved around two main axes: the support or opposition to the French Mandate, and the content and shape of an independent Lebanon (the relationship between Lebanon and the Arab Middle East; the role of religion in the government, etc…)
This paper is based on my larger dissertation research conducted in the French diplomatic archives and the Arabic and Arabic-Spanish bilingual press published in Argentina. Through the critical analysis of these new sources, this paper aims at presenting a more complex reality of Lebanese emigrant communities in the largely forgotten South America during the crucial years for the formation of the Lebanon. In these years different political communities of Lebanese emigrants existed hand in hand in Argentina, always in direct relationship with the politics of their imagined homeland. 

First day, first parallel session:

Transnational Religion and Shi’ite Politics. The case of the Lebanese Community in Senegal

Mara A. Leichtman

Abstract: This paper will examine the changing nature of Lebanese religious identity in Senegal. Archival documents demonstrate that the first generation of Lebanese migrants to Senegal arrived over a century ago a religiously divided community.  However, the French colonial power was the first to define the Lebanese as an ethnic group, regardless of their internal divisions.  Prohibiting Lebanese religious integration with the Senegalese was the first step in breaking traditional religious divisions from Lebanon.  Lebanese religious categories of Sunni and Shi’ite, Maronite and Orthodox converged over generations to become simply “Muslim” and “Christian.” The Lebanese confessional system, initially, was not the overriding identifier for this diasporic community. 

The 1970s were a politically charged period for Shi’ite Muslims around the world.  The Iranian revolution demonstrated that religion can prevail over Western, secular forces.  Shi’a in Lebanon, inspired by the success in Iran, began to demand equal rights and form their own political parties. Such Shi’ite confidence was brought to Senegal through Sheikh El-Zein, who built the first Shi’ite Islamic institution in West Africa in 1978.  His goal was to bring the Lebanese of Senegal “back to Islam.”  Through regular lectures, classes, individual meetings, and books that he wrote and published with his own printing press, the sheikh began to educate Lebanese Shi’a about their religion.  While many Lebanese of Senegal had never visited Lebanon, Shi’a began to take pride in their origins from southern Lebanon and in the regional politics of Hizbollah against Israel.  The recent arrival of Arabic satellite television to Senegal aided in their return to a religious, and nationalist, identity.  Exposure to global Shi’ite Islamic forces has resulted in the Lebanese of Senegal identifying more strongly as Lebanese Shi’a.

The Lebanese and Lebanese Party Politics in Ghana, West Africa

Xerxes Malki

Abstract: This paper examines the Lebanese and Lebanese party politics in Ghana, West Africa.  The Lebanese in Ghana first formed various clubs and societies in Ghana, including the Syrian Lebanese Benevolent Society in 1925.  However, by the 1950s that they were beginning to seriously pursue differing political ideologies based on Lebanese political parties.  The important players in this game were the SSNP, the Nasserites, and the Phalangist. The difference between various Lebanese groups with differing ideologies led to the formation of opposing clubs - the Syrian National Club and the Lebanon House.  The Lebanese community in Ghana is heavily influenced by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, primarily on account of the fact that a major element of the community's population comes from the villages of Beit Chebab, Dik el Mehdi and Beit ech Cha'ar, which are generally considered to be SSNP strongholds.  Disputes eventually erupted between Nasserites, SSNP stalwarts and Phalangists in 1958.  The Ghana government, which strongly supported the UAR, nonetheless seems to have decided to support the concept of a unitary and independent Lebanon.  It closely monitored the activities of the Syrian National Club, and took over the society's properties in 1963, thereby forcing its closure. More recently, there have been disputes between those who support the World Lebanese Cultural Union and those who support the local Lebanese Society.  This 'exporting' of Lebanese politics has had some interesting effects on the community, and even on the host (Ghanaian) society. This talk would be a development of the theme of party politics amongst the Lebanese, and it will take a historical view from the 1940s on.  The paper will also challenge and assess the notion of a single Lebanese 'community' in light of the political and ideological differences which exist amongst the emigrants.

Small-scale Lebanese activism in the U.S. during July 2006 War on Lebanon: A resistive discourse

Nadine Yehya-Abou Najm

Abstract: Building on theory of public sphere and the theory of counterpublics, this study examined alternative discursive arenas used by the Lebanese activists to challenge the dominant public sphere during the July 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon. As such it sought to uncover the tensions associated with individual and small scale activism of a marginalized ethnic minority community living in the U.S. Through the narratives of seven activists from a Lebanese community in a Midwestern town, the project interrogates the impeding structures that governed the Lebanese activism; highlighted the opportunities for constructing and practicing public discourse; and analyzed the channels of communication these activists utilized to engage in public discourse. The structures that constrained the possibilities of activism were articulated in the realm of (a) fear and alienation; (b) U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East; and (c) media framing of the war in the U.S. Also, two mobilizing sources that served the community included (a) feelings of anger and sense of duty and (2) rich information base. Finally, our co-constructions with Lebanese activists revealed three channels of communication: (a) interpersonal communication; (b) mass media communication; and (c) other social activism channels. Based on this case study of Lebanese social activism, this work aspires to contribute to the understanding of mobilization and social activism of ethnic minorities living in Diaspora as they respond to a salient issue in the country of origin.  

When Are Diasporas a source of Moderation During Post-conflict Reconstruction? Lebanese and Albanian Diasporas Compared

Maria Koinova

Abstract: Studies considering the impact of Diasporas on post-conflict politics in the homeland have been understudied so far. Although works at the intersection of economic development and migration gained significance by exploring the impact of diaspora remittances (Kapur 2003, Oestergard-Nielsen 2003, Eckstein 2003), their primary focus has been on capturing developmental dynamics. Only recently did scholars (Huntington
2004, Lyons 2004, Adamson 2004, Shain 2002, King and Melvin 2000, Shain and
Barth 2003) start focusing on the political aspects of diaspora politics in addition to the more traditional tracing of ethnic lobbying in foreign policy. Theory building is still scarce despite the growing importance of Diasporas as non-state actors. This paper builds on the ideas of Shain (2002) and Lyons (2004) concerning the behavior of conflict-driven
Diasporas. The latter are usually considered ideological, non-cooperative and interested in conflict perpetuation. Forced migration had made them solidify strong victim-based identities and build rigid institutions around them. Thus, they are usually considered a source of radicalization of domestic politics. While my paper acknowledges that this claim is appropriate for a large number of cases and time periods, it argues that there is a deviation from such behavior during a period of post-conflict reconstruction even if contentious issues - such as achievement of sovereignty - are at stake. I derive hypotheses from a structured, focused comparison of the Lebanese and Albanian Diasporas and the periods after the end of large-scale political violence in Kosovo (1999) and Lebanon (1990). I argue that diasporas act as moderating factors when: 1) they withdraw from active support for local political factions due to exhaustion and inability to influence domestic politics controlled by a foreign power in the realm of internal security; 2) they calculate that achieving sovereignty of the homeland is easier by lobbying politically relevant powers, rather than by supporting radical domestic factions. The paper concludes by explaining how these arguments challenge larger premises of the literature on external actors and political conflict in divided societies.

The Right to Vote of the Lebanese in the Diaspora: the Lebanese-abroad.com Movement Experience

Gebran Karam

Abstract: The case for the right to vote of the Lebanese in the Diaspora is presented in light of the Law on Nationality and the Law on Elections. A historical review of the issue is presented from the creation of the Greater Lebanon in 1920 up until the parliamentary elections of 2005. The intricate connection of the right to vote issue with the identity of Lebanon is highlighted and its political implications are analyzed. The experience of the lebanese-abroad.com movement is presented with its impacts, lessons learned, and outlook for the future taking into account the draft law prepared by the Boutros-Commission.

The Political Issue of the Lebanese Migrants in the 1930’s: The Case of the 1932 census and the 1943 electoral laws

Jaulin Thibaut

Abstract: In Lebanon, according to principle of the confessional system, the number of parliamentary seats allocated to each religious community is proportional to their demographical weight. In the 1930’s, as well as today, the political rights of the Lebanese migrants are a complex issue linked with the confessional balance. From the end the 19th century until the late 1920’s, tens of thousand of peasants from Mount Lebanon, mainly Christians, migrated to North and South America. In 1924, after the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, they had the right to ask for the Lebanese nationality according to the Treaty of Lausanne. In 1932, in the census conducted by the French authorities, the migrants were register in four categories depending on whether they pay taxes and whether he had left Lebanon before 1924. Only those paying taxes were register as voters in 1934’s electoral law, but in 1943 the chief of state Ayoub Tabet gave more parliamentary seats to the Christians by counting all the migrants as voters. This project led to a political crisis that ended when a consensual solution was found establishing a ratio of 6 Christian for 5 Muslims in the parliament that was never change until 1989.

First day, second session:

Respect Means the World to Me: Young, Arabic-speaking Australians and the Politics of Recognition

Greg Noble

Abstract: Scholarly discussions of diasporas have largely focused on questions of identity and cultural reproduction: how groups of migrants and their children maintain their senses of belonging in relation to their homeland within the country of settlement. This approach tends to give little attention to the diasporic dilemma of navigating the complex demands of integration through which migrant groups articulate themselves to the various sites of their new home as well as to a transnational community. These demands entail competing relations of recognition.

This paper argues that the ‘search for respect’ found amongst young men of second generation, Arabic-speaking background, reflects concerns around questions of integration and recognition. It focuses on the experiences of a group of young men in Sydney, Australia, who were first interviewed in 1995, and then again eight years later. Their earlier, self-presentation as a ‘gang’ had more to do with negotiating the complex dynamics of ethnicity and masculinity, and the desire for social power though a clearly defined identity than with any real connection to the criminal world, despite attempts by populist politicians and media to draw these links.

When these men were re-interviewed in 2003, they exhibited a different orientation to the problem of recognition. These two moments in their life histories represent something of the contrasting logics of social inclusion and exclusion around the central themes of respect and respectability; the kinds of social recognition their embodied and cultural capital can confer. The paper analyses the shift from a respect based partly on fear and strategies of visibility to one based on benevolent paternalism, where accomplishment, character and social giving promise respectability.

Foreigners Among Citizens: The Lebanese Politizen in “Terror Australis”

Grant Farred

Abstract: Arguing from the event of Cronulla, this presentation offers the experience of the Lebanese in Australia as an articulation of the new subject of the political: the politizen. On 12th December 2005, 5000 white Australians converged on Cronulla, a beach in a Sydney suburb, and attacked the Lebanese who were there. Cronulla was a response to an earlier incident, when (just a week prior) Lebanese men physically “assaulted” 2 white Australian life guards. Egged on by reactionary radio talk show hosts (“shock jocks”), Muslim women were chased and had their scarves pulled off their heads, while the Lebanese men were not spared either. The very next day, Lebanese Australians took over the streets of a number of “white” suburbs in the southwest of Sydney: from Cronulla to Maroubra to Brighton-le-Sands. The Lebanese transformed the white suburbs into no-go zones for the residents: the residents had nowhere to go, except stay in their homes.
In this presentation, I distinguish the “foreigner,” the racialized, ethnicized Lebanese body, from the citizen, the white, Anglo-Celtic subject. The difference between the citizen and the foreigner, although Lebanese Australians are born and raised in Australia, is the former is presumed to be not only native, but to have inalienable rights: the rights of the citizen. The politizen, on the other hand, is that subject of the Australian political whose rights can be suspended – or, worse – in the moment of crisis, precisely because in the event such as Cronulla the politizen is understood to have produced the crisis and so has effectively disenfranchised itself.
For the politizen, therefore, citizenship is never guaranteed, citizenship is never an absolute right but contingent upon the condition of the political. The politizen is that subject of the political that reveals the limitations of the (Australian) political, the ways in which the political can, in the event, make the politizen other to the nation, alienable to itself as “citizen.” The condition of politizenship is, moreover, increasingly precarious in a moment when the racialized body of the Australian political is represented as the “Muslim,” or, worse, the “Islamic fundamentalist” or “terrorist.” The Lebanese “citizen” of Australia is understood as being located in the trajectory of 9/11, the “citizen” – or, the foreigner – that threatens the Western democracy from within and, in so doing, is responsible for its own tenuous right to citizenship.
The politizen is, for this reason, that subject of the political that demands a thinking of race and citizenship, ethnicity and citizenship, and the very biopolitical dangers of a contingent citizenship. Capable of acting within the political, and against the political, precisely because its citizenship is so dependent upon its performance of quiescence, the politizen demonstrates how citizenship offers only the right of rightlessness to the Lebanese Australian: the right to speak nothing but its own rightlessness which in turn produces the turn to the acts of the politizen: the racialized subject acting against the State that disenfranchises its because of its historic, not contemporary, nativity. To be Lebanese in Australia is to live, in our moment arguably more than any other, with a political that is, at its very core, constitutionally incapable of enforcing the rights of those who are not “native.” To be Lebanese in Australia is, as in the case of Cronulla, to live always with the prospect of an “insufficient citizenship” that makes politizenship both immanent and imminent.

Questioning Dual citizenship: The Experience of the July 2006 Evacuation Among Australian- and Canadian-Lebanese

Daiva Stasiulis & Zainab Amery

Abstract: Dual citizenship in both Australia and Canada became politicized when a large number of dual citizens from Lebanon required mass evacuation during July 2006 as a result of the violence in that country. The mass evacuations conducted by both countries raised a number of rights-based questions concerning the right to consular protection of dual nationals; economic issues such as state expenditure on evacuations and social assistance; and nationalist issues intertwined with foreign policy considerations. The similarities between the migration experiences historically of both nations, the commonalities in multicultural policies and challenges to those policies, and the neo-conservative and neo-liberal policies embraced by both governments provide a foundation for a comparative approach to the dual citizenship debate within the context of the Lebanese communities.
This study examines the experiences of Lebanese-Australians and Lebanese-Canadians during the July 2006 evacuation and the public and media discourses surrounding their dual citizenship in the Canadian and Australian contexts.  The paper will shed new light on the phenomenon of plural citizenship, exploring how individuals and families strategize to improve their individual and collective conditions by acquiring dual nationality.  It also explores the perils of dual nationality, especially when despite significant contributions of these diasporas to the social, political or economical spheres of settler societies, one nationality has been devalued, as has occurred for Arabs in the post-9-11 era.

On Being Honker Lebanese: Diasporic Hadchit Identity Across the American West

Nelia Hyndman-Rizk

Abstract: In the context of globalization and in the age of the Internet the descendants of the 1st wave of Hadchit emigration to North America in the 1890’s, now scattered across the American West, are re-engaging with their Lebanese ancestry, but it is not all smooth sailing.  For many the only pictures of the village they have seen are on the Internet at the Hadchit village website.  They have never visited Lebanon and the only knowledge of the “old country” they carry with them are the fragments passed down to them from their grandparents and great-grandparents.  They have inherited the village identity of their forefathers and have scant knowledge of the modern state of Lebanon.  Yet they find themselves at cross-roads, for just when they thought they were secure in their “integration” and “assimilation” into the American “white” middle classes September 11 came along and cast into doubt their standing.  Are they now Arab Americans with divided loyalties?  It seems their status oscillates between several positions depending on who they are talking to and where they are living.  They almost pass as “whites” when they live in close proximity to large concentrations of African Americans, as the Hadchitis do in St.Louis Missouri.  On the other hand, since September 11 they feel conspicuous where they once didn’t. Many turn to the Maronite churches of North America in search of their Lebanese roots.  It is here that they meet newly arrived middle class Lebanese immigrants from Beirut and discover that they are “too white” to be Lebanese.  They are told they are no longer authentically Lebanese, that they are too fair after two generations of out marriage.  Furthermore, their Arabic is backward and their cooking smacks of their humble peasant origins.  When the Hadchit Americans describe their conundrum they say “We’re Honker Lebanese”, borrowed from the African Americans it means- “we look white on the outside, but we feel Lebanese on the inside”…

First day, second parallel session:

The Last Migration: The First Contemporary Example of Lebanese Diasporic Literature

Syrine Hout

Abstract: This article is a comparative study of the postwar or post-1990 Anglophone Lebanese novel produced outside of Lebanon. It distinguishes between exilic and diasporic fictions. The former are characterized by the characters? unresolved and radical sentiments towards their homeland, whether positive, i.e. nostalgic, or negative, i.e. critical, but which are equally debilitating when trying to move  on with life and therefore foster a mental condition of exile. By  contrast, I argue that one recent novel, namely Jad el Hage?s The Last Migration (2002), charts a new path in this ever-growing corpus by 
portraying the Lebanese as living in a diasporic state of mind, based  on a balanced perspective on the effects that living abroad has on  their personal and collective identities. Unlike exilic narratives, preoccupied with homesickness and concomitant nostalgic memory or bitterness displayed by critical memory, this novel may be read as the prototype of Lebanese diasporic literature.

Unstated: Lebanon War Narratives and the Lebanese Diaspora

Salah Hassan

Abstract: This chapter focuses on the relationship between war narratives as they are elaborated in the conditions of exile.  It is particularly centered on a comparative reading of Koolaids by Rabih Alamedine and DiNero’s Game by Rawi Hage.  These two novels by Arab writers living in North America represent war in Lebanon through the prism of complex social relations, in Lebanon as well as in exile.  The essay looks especially at the way that the texts trouble the widespread myths about Lebanon before the war, and at the same time try to depict the intricacies of lives in Lebanon in the midst of the conflict.  Central to the analysis is the problematic of national belonging and the fracturing of national bonds that are in part depicted through the protagonists’ attempts to escape the violence that marks Lebanon’s contemporary history.  These flights into exile constitute ostensible new beginnings liberated both from the political nightmare of the wa- ravaged country and from the more personal restrictions linked to family life and social networks.  Even as exile is presented as a potentially liberating condition, the novels themselves—written in exile—ironically return to the context of the war.  In these works, exile is not only the condition that makes possible narratives, but also the fact that invariably recalls the violence of the war.  At a theoretical level, the essay engages critically with the notion of diaspora writing and questions the limits of the diaspora cultural concept, which under the influence of British cultural studies, notably through the works of Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy, has come to be associated with a critique of nationalism.

(Trans) Planting Cedars: Seeking Identity, Nationality, and Culture in the Lebanese Diaspora

Victoria M. Abboud

Abstract: Over the last thirty years, my father has been one example of the Lebanese diaspora and its strength.  Spending most of his time in Windsor, Ontario, Canada (on the Canada-U.S. border near Detroit) but visiting Lebanon often, he exemplifies the modern-day bi-national individual.  While Mary Louise Pratt has offered the term “contact zone” to refer to the movement, meeting, and mixing of whole cultures, my father has become an individual contact zone:  one person who represents two nations, cultures, and homelands.  It is this notion of the individual as contact zone that I trace in this paper.

Thanks in great part to advancements in telecommunications and globalization in the last three decades or so, the term “disapora” has taken on a more prolific and integral role in global politics, economics, and the place of the individual in the global system.  No longer are immigrants expected to leave their homelands and begin the process of assimilation or forgetting; instead, new definitions of nationality have emerged, encouraging individuals to embrace their heritage and to incorporate their “past” lives with those of their current and future lives.  The work of ethnographers like James Clifford and Claude Lévi-Strauss, while seminal to discussions about culture, have been reconsidered and forced to merge with discussions about nationalism (cf. Benedict Anderson) and global politics.  In addition, literary works like that of Ameen Rihani (“I Dreamt I Was a Donkey Boy Again”) and H. S. (Sam) Hamod (“Dying with the Wrong Name”) offer more opportunity for inquiry because of the expressive and poignant nature of their texts.

In order to interrogate these notions of identity, nationality, and culture in the Lebanese diaspora, I have used an interdisciplinary approach by drawing on interviews with my father, critical and literary studies about diaspora, cultural identity, and nationalism, and by tracing how these issues are affected by our current era of globalization, what Thomas Friedman refers to as the “flattening” of our world.  The goal of this inquiry is to reveal the complexities of current-day diasporic communities, specifically the Lebanese community in the Windsor-Detroit area, and to express the importance of understanding diaspora in terms of individual experience.

Is Brown the Color of sexuality?

Deema Kaedbey

Abstract: The works of lesbian writers like Audre Lorde, Dorothy Allison and Cherrie Moraga have entered the American literary canon, giving voice to lesbian women of marginalized groups or subcultures. This has not been the case with members of Middle Eastern communities—until recently. Joanna Kadi, a Lebanese-Canadian working class queer writer has published the anthology Food for Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian Feminists which includes writings by lesbians, as well as bringing out her own work entitled Thinking Class: Sketches from a Cultural Worker. With that, it has become possible to look at how lesbians of Middle Eastern origins—especially Lebanese Americans--living in North America interpret their sexuality, as it intersects with their ethnicity and/or class.
This paper will explore how Kadi constructs her sexuality through her engagement in class, race, as well as queer politics. Kadi labels herself a queer, and for her, queerness is the condition of being “out of place”- to use Edward Said’s phrase, in the dominant culture and willingly refusing to fit in. But interpreting this into how she constructs her autobiographical self shows that sexuality is still not easily locatable, and can go into deeper aspects of the writer’s life than how she consciously construes it. Thus with Kadi, when it comes to elaborating on her own queerness, the intriguing question becomes: why does she define it as related primarily to her class, secondarily to her lesbianism and not at all to being an Arab? I suggest that we read her major work, Thinking Class as a “testimonio” -based on John Beverly’s definition, and thus she is more concerned with the political aim of bringing together working class queers and people of all color, than with going into the particularities of her own ethnicity, or sexuality. Yet, I bridge this disconnection between ethnicity and sexuality arguing that Kadi expresses her sexuality through cultural practices, subtly links her sexuality to women-identified undertakings that, I also believe, carry a certain sensuality.

Seductive Identifications: Parody and Power in Loubna Haikal’s Seducing Mr Maclean

Saadi Nikro

Abstract: Loubna Haikal’s novel Seducing Mr Maclean explores the tensions involved in working through the way in which contemporary multicultural Australia positions the value and significance of Ethnicity, more specifically how it structures Lebanese ethnic identity and recognition. My presentation will therefore offer a politics of reading attentive to the context in which the novel is symptomatically embedded, and which it embodies or carries as a foregrounding of such tensions and structural constraints. This is demonstrated by her use of parody to disrupt the complicity of a reading process that does not reflect on its assumptions and expectations, on the way in which a predominating political culture structures grids of self- and other-understanding.

Currently Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Humanities at Notre Dame University in Lebanon, I teach courses in literary studies and histories of human thought. I earned my degrees in the School of Sociology at the University of New South Wales, and since then have been researching mainly in the area of literature in Australia, in postcolonial studies, as well as Arabic literature.

Second day, first session:

The Journey of the Turbah “Sajdah” From Mecca to Kerbala to Jerusalem: Transnational Cultural and Political Identity of Lebanese Shi’is in Michigan

Hashim Al-Tawil

Abstract: Turbah, called “Sajdah” >in Lebanon, plural Turab, is a small object made of sun dried clay in different shapes and designs with elaborate carving, calligraphic text, and pictorial presentations in mold relief sculpture. The literal meaning of turba is soil or dust, generally refereeing to the soil –and the burial site of the city of Kerbala in Iraq. Traditionally, Shi`i Muslim pray on turba for purity and commemoration of Imam Husayn martyrdom. Turba is usually manufactured in the “holy” Shi`i city of Kerbala, and made from the clay of the river “Husainiyyah” which originates from the Euphrates south of Baghdad. Shi`is believe that praying on turba is a tradition practiced by the Prophet Mohammed and his companions to keep clean. Shi`is believe that the soil of Kerbala is sacred because it contains the blood and corpse of Imam Husain, the second Shi’i imam who was killed along with members of his family by the Umayyad forces in 681 in Kerbala. Main virtue of praying on a turba is, therefore, to connect with the memory of the martyrdom of Imam Husain.  Although turab are traditionally made and sold in Kerbala but also manufactured in Iran, and found abundantly all over Shi`i mosques in the world.

The research will discuss the of pictorial representation, text, iconography, and symbolism of visual images on selected turab used by “Shi’i” Muslims- especially Lebanese in Michigan. Traditional use of the turba has become a sectarian identity for Shi’ism, but the present use of imagery on certain turba may express a transnational political concept emanates from the political reality in the Middle East.
It will also examine and analyze major examples of turba’s  iconography in relation to the imagery and text found on these ritualistic objects. The source of Shi`i population in Michigan: Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, and other places and its ramification as an indicator of certain politics expressed through pictorial imagery and text on these turab.
The research argues for the use of pictorial and textual vocabulary on the turba as political symbols- rather than ritualistic religious object. Typical depictions on the turba include interpretive images of God “the Creator” and Mecca “the Ultimate Qibla or direction of prayer”. Images or reference to Imam Husayn and /or the twelve shi’i Imams are commonly depicted on the turba to represent Kerbala.  More recently a depiction of Jerusalem interpreted through “al-Masjid al-Aqsa”, the precinct of the Aqsa Mosque- represented by a stylized image of the Dome of the Rock has emerged on turba used in prayers among Shi’i Lebanese in Michigan, and possibly aboard. The paper discusses the political inference and historic breadth of the use of such imagery in light of the present occupied Palestine, and especially the city of Jerusalem.

Ethnic No More? Generations and Heritage Identities Among the Lebanese in Northern New England

Amy E. Rowe

Abstract: The descendants of Ottoman-era Lebanese migrants to rural New England in the northeastern United State are considered to be fully assimilated into American society, to the point where they are described as having ‘lost’ all Lebanese cultural traits and any tangible Lebanese or Lebanese-American ethnic identity. Members of the group maintain this perception by noting that real, authentic, and holistic Lebanese culture exists only in the past (or in modern Lebanon); it resided with and in their migrant ancestors, but is neither with nor in them today. As a result, Lebanese ethnicity is apparently absent in the region. However, small groups of third generation Lebanese are challenging this absence and assimilated status by reaching out to reconstruct a Lebanese past that they can access and understand. In this way, the authentic past core still holds, but they are developing a technique to bring it into the future for themselves and the subsequent generations. In this paper I first address the primary ways in which members of the third generation are developing methods and using new technologies to access the past. These include reviving Lebanese community events, use of documentary evidence to create genealogies and family heritage books, and use of state archives and the internet to create (or re-establish) kinship ties in a new manner. In each instance they circumvent
the older established networks—word-of-mouth methods of sharing information and maintenance of widespread sets of inter-family and village obligations practiced by their ancestors (broadly construed as a ‘second generation’ approach to the past). In the second half of the paper I evaluate the ways in which these activities can be interpreted as a challenge to the established authority of the second generation, especially to those who are more invested in the idea of cultural absence and maintain that the past is something they exclusively can access and interpret. I conclude by considering how the efforts of the third generation can be construed as a project of modernity in terms of how a long-term Lebanese migrant community (a part of the Arab Diaspora in America) engages in social reproduction and cultural transformation in order to produce desirable futures.

Background information: Ethnographic material for this paper was drawn from research in New England in 2005-2006. I conducted fieldwork in community centers, historical societies, businesses, private homes, and most especially in Maronite religious centers, especially St. Rafqua’s Maronite Retreat Centre in Shelburne, Vermont, St. Joseph’s Maronite Church in Waterville, Maine, and St. George’s Maronite Church in Dover, New Hampshire.

Arab American and African American Alliances in the Wake of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War

Sarah Gualtieri

Abstract: This paper explores a pivotal moment in Arab-American activism: the fifteen years following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. I argue that the devastating effects of this war prompted Arabs in the United States to develop new strategies of collective action. Specifically, they harnessed the anti-imperialist politics of Arab nationalism to forge alliances with decolonization movements abroad, and with civil rights movements in the United States. A new model of Arab American activism emerged that stressed transnational connections in order to combat racism, the erosion of civil rights, and the proliferation of stereotypes in the mainstream media.

This paper focuses in particular on the work of several organizations formed in the wake of 1967 to mobilize the Arab American community and to combat discrimination at home and abroad.  Chief among these was the Association of Arab American University Graduates (AAUG) which became the preeminent non-sectarian organization representing the voice of Arab professionals and intellectuals in the United States. The organization included many members of Lebanese origin. Based on the examination of the records and publications of these organizations, and on interviews conducted with members, the paper discusses key debates and strategies within the Arab American movement.  For the purposes of my presentation, I will highlight the efforts of the AAUG to foster new and productive alliances with African American organizations.

Second day, first parallel session:

Lebanese Cultural Workers and Artists: Navigating the Arab Cultural Terrain in New York

Nadine Khalil

Abstract: As global flows of people, ideas, and commodities give rise to cultural capital, academic and media discourse seems to be dominated by Western attitudes towards non-Western visual representations, particularly those of the Middle East, and vice versa. It therefore becomes significant to explore how the “other(s)” perceive themselves and seek to negotiate and secure strategic positions in the political economy of culture, or as one cultural worker told me informally: “we feel the need to Arabize our America, perhaps in a manner more benign than politically. Even before September 11, we were working on the space that was left: the cultural sphere.”
The purpose of my research project is to delve into the contemporary establishment of cultural spaces by Lebanese migrant cultural workers/activists and artists, whose organizing efforts are located in New York city, the first major 'port of entry' for successive waves of Lebanese and Syrians migrants from the late 19th century. I will assess how transnational forms of belonging, both to a Lebanese nation and to an Arab American context, are recreated through the visual and performative arts. The politics of engaging in ‘cultural citizenship’ (Joseph: 1999) in diaspora, employed as a subversive measure at the grassroots level, redefines the territoriality of the nation as a conceptual space.
This project is primarily exploratory in revealing how such forms of cultural encounter are translated into aesthetic forms of participation which challenge the current structures of domination and hegemonic practices in the US and attempt to come to terms with the with memory of another national crisis, the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990). By further incorporating elements of geopolitical critique in terms of the US government’s relationship to the Middle East, some of these individuals broadened their discourses, thus symbolically waging a creative battle at the level of the personal, the political and the international, whilst employing a distinct sense of ‘Arabness.’ In effect, I will demonstrate how they are combining a personal and gendered rendering of the past with the broader discontinuities in national historiography, and what happens when they return, particularly in response the Israeli war waged against Lebanon in 2006. Through their narrated fragments of experiences and creations, I hope to better delineate how they navigate between different sociocultural worlds via embodied testimonies and disembodied art.

Hip-Hop a Cultural Movement

Khaled Sabsabi

History - Roots
The Hip-Hop movement began in the early 1970s and was initiated by inner-city youth, mostly from African American communities living in the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn areas of New York City, United States of America. During the early 1980s the culture had spread to become an underground world wide phenomon. The movement begun with the works of such people as DJ Kool Herc and DJ Afrika Bambaataa. Originating from socially marginalized groups, the Hip-Hop culture is spontaneously nonconformist in relation to the western system of values and esthetics.

The four main "elements", of Hip-Hop culture are MCing (rapping), DJing, graffiti, and breakdancing. Most consider knowledge or droppin' science and political activism as the fifth element, the term "Hip-Hop" typically refers only to the music.

The Fifth Element
Hip-hop in the Australian CCD `Community Cultural Development' context has become an effective tool to communicate with ethnic youth specifically those of a Lebanese background, by using their appropriated language and their interpretation of culture and identity. It has become an entry point for mobilizing and motivating the `other' young people to organize and to engage in plans for local and global cultural, reflection, representation, action and change.

"For the music arises from a generation that feels with some justice that they have been betrayed by those who came before them. That they are at best tolerated in schools, feared on the streets, and almost certainly destined for the hellholes of prison. They grew up hungry, hated and unloved. And this is the psychic fuel that seems to generate the anger that seems common in much of the music and poetry. One senses very little hope above the personal goals of wealth and the climb above the pit of poverty." Mumia Abu Jamal, Immortal Technique "Revolutionary" - Volume 2 - CD, 2003.

These are the young people that belong to a multiple world, speaking in many tongues and manner both literally and metaphorically. They are the product generation of migrant non Anglo Australians and their children who have developed ways of translating and negotiating in and between the meaning of identity and place, while continually finding, challenging, transforming and establishing new definitions of sameness and difference.

Contributions of Young Lebanese-Canadians to the Culture of Peace in Lebanon

Pamela Chrabieh

Abstract: The Lebanese community in Canada is one of the largest and oldest outside Lebanon. More than 66% of its members reside in the city of Montreal in the province of Quebec and are well integrated in the economical, social and political systems. Many of them are active in the Cultural scene, especially in the French Literature as writers, and in the Arts as painters, musicians, and theatre and movie producers. Within the great diversity of this production, an interesting example lies in the works of the 25-40 Age Group whose childhood and adolescence were marked by the war, and adulthood by a multileveled engagement – individual, collective, national and transnational – in constructing a Culture of Peace in Lebanon, thus offering alternative paths to conflictual memories and identities. Based on the results of an ongoing field research conducted in Montreal and Beirut since September 2005, this presentation aims at displaying a variety of contributions of this Age Group that constitute an important subset of many edifying attitudes and actions worth taking into account in a process of breaking the vicious circle of war.

Landscapes of Diaspora and Migration

Jamelie Hassan

Abstract: This paper begins with an investigation of the vital role and relationship of First Nations People in Canada to the fortunes of immigrant populations. Specifically, the paper will address the relationship between Arab immigrant communities in Canada and First Nations Peoples, narratives which have been largely absent from the official histories of the state. It will also address cultural programs initiated in London, Ontario, Canada where my father settled in 1914.
I will begin by re-counting just one of these unofficial narratives. While visiting Lebanon in 1967, I would often stay with my aunt and uncle in the mountain village of Baaloul in the Bekka. In the early hours of the morning, as I waited for my bus to take me to Beirut where I was briefly attending art school, I was often greeted by three very old women who were baking bread and who would invite me to take my breakfast with them. As I sat within the domed space of the traditional clay oven, my eyes burning from the rising smoke, I could see the amused expression which passed between the women. As tea with bread and cheese was passed to me, one of the old women, would laugh, give me a gentle pinch on the arm, and say - "you think you are the true Canadian but we are the true Canadians". I did not understand what was meant. But of course their laughter, their expression and their words stayed with me... until much later, more than a decade later - in fact - my brother and writer, Marwan Hassa, was to travel to the same village in Lebanon and during that stay he met the grandson of one of the women. This is what he learned - the story of Cree sisters from northern Alberta, who had married Arab men and had migrated from Lebanon to Canada in the early 1900's.
In a short story Marwan Hassan recounts:
"After the first world war, homesick and not in good health, he longed to return to the old country. His Cree wife and the Canadian born children remigrated with him. About sixty years later this old woman I had met was that West Cree Woman, an Arabic speaking Muslim living in the little mountain village of her dead husband. Her sons in turn had migrated to South America sending the grandchildren back to the village in the summers to be with her, their Arab, Muslim grandmother who, as you can tell, was a true Canadian.".
Here in this fragment you can imagine the Arab men who had travelled to Canada in the late 1800's and early 1900's, who, like many Asians, had worked outside the dominant commerce of colonial Canada that was controlled by the British or the French. While Montreal was an important connecting site where many young men were outfitted with suitcases to work as peddlers, many like my grandfather and father, travelled into southern Ontario. Later some journeyed further west, working closely with native communities in the fur trade.
With the publishing of his ground-breaking book "Orientalism" in 1978, Edward Said, offered "a critique of power and a discourse of care and attention" and several community programs such as the Travelling Theory program opened a dialogue between the significant Arabic community in London, Ontario, Canada who had their origins in Lebanon, within the framework of various public forums and exhibitions. Jessie Amery, who co–coordinated the community project where many individuals shared their ideas, their histories and their objects noted in her text for the conference:
"People from our father’s village in the Bekka Valley of Lebanon were part of the first Lebanese wave of immigration to London, Ontario, Canada in the 1800's ."

Second day, second session:

Careers of Lebanese Talented Migrants in France

Akram Al-Ariss & Mustafa Ozbilgin

Abstract: This paper reports on Lebanese talented migrants’ work experiences in France. The study focuses on France as it is the European country having the largest number of Lebanese most of whom being talented. Although these migrants constitute a reservoir of working power for industries in France, little information is available on their careers. Furthermore, the influence of Lebanese migrants’ educational background, religious traditions and social classes on their careers will be discussed. Even though the literature on Lebanese migration suggests that migrants’ religious traditions influence the way they adapt into their host countries, few studies connects this to questions of migrants’ education and social classes. The study is based on ten qualitative interviews done between December 2006 and February 2007 with eight Lebanese men and two Lebanese women coming from engineering and medicine fields and living and working in Paris region. Preliminary findings point out that the career ambitions of the migrants were mainly shaped by their post migration experiences in France. The majority of them complained about corruption in Lebanon and about the way career opportunities are offered to Lebanese upon confessional belonging rather than merit. Many of them were helped by already established Lebanese migrants in order to register for studying or for finding work opportunities in France and Europe. Furthermore, all migrants having medical education had difficulties for obtaining a work permit until they were given the French nationality. Still, almost all of these migrants had no difficulties in finding jobs in France and had successful career experiences. It is important to note that the group of migrants that we study in this project are of professional class and are highly skilled, which explains their relatively positive experiences of labour market integration. Therefore, we conclude that studying migrant’s experiences of labour market integration should incorporate a sense of class and professional identity both in their country of origin and their destination as these emerged as salient considerations that shape their labour market integration. 

How Remittance Can Contribute to Economic Growth in Developing Countries?

Charles Gomes

Abstract: The main goal of this research is to challenge the taken for granted assumption that remittances have a positive impact on developing countries. Based on interviews with remittances Brazilian migrants in Europe, the research will answer three critical questions: (1) Are remittances being used as a job-creating investment, savings, basic household consumption, housing, or human capital investment? (2) Does the loss of highly skilled Brazilians offer more benefits (remittance, investment, tourism)  than cost (public education and tax cost) to Brazil. (3) Does the second generation of Brazilian migrants get fully integrated in European society and stop their economic links with Brazil? Therefore are new migrants replacing old ones? Only by answering these questions we can estimate how much important remittances can be for devel’Harlingue

Engendering Diaspora Masculinities: The Impact of Forced Migration on Male Identity in Lebanese Network Communities

Eugene Richard Sensenig-Dabbous


The life histories of Lebanese men and women living abroad on a (semi-) permanent basis have often been impacted by the effects of forced migration. Being required to leave one's country against one's will and not being able to return on one's own terms are experienced differently by male and female forced migrants.

In this paper I will study the ways in which the Summer 2006 War in Lebanon, as well as the post war political crisis, affected the Lebanese diaspora communities and their families, friends and professional associates back home. Emphasis will be placed on men, who are either Lebanese citizens or who, by their own self-definition, are non-nationals of Lebanese origin. I will describe the way in which military conflicts and crises in Lebanon are perceived by male members of the diaspora and how they determine their plans for themselves, their families and businesses or careers.

The two samples chosen for this paper will be taken from studies carried out during the period between the summer of 2006 and the beginning of 2007 by this author; one, a non-representative sample of almost 100 Lebanese expatriates who were evacuated or who were otherwise forced to leave during the war between Hizbollah and the IDF; the second, a partially representative sample of almost 800 Lebanese residents with ties to the diaspora and over 100 Lebanese living abroad, which was used to study the intentions of this target group to either leave or to return to and/or invest in Lebanon respectively.

Issues such as men's roles within their families, their ties to their – oft times global – extended families, their aspirations for the children (especially their sons) and the impact of forced migration on diaspora men's feelings towards such issues as security, performance and success will be highlighted in this paper.

Second day, second parallel session:

Print Arabs and Muslims: Representational Structures of Arab and Muslim Americans in The Wall Street Journal, 2000-2003

Suad Joseph & Benjamin D’Harlingue

Abstract: How Arab Americans and Muslim Americans are represented in leading American newspapers reflects the critical limits and possibilities of the political space available to them in the American body politic.   Structures of representation in news media include the cumulative outcome of symbolic strings which emerge from individual articles authored by a variety of columnists and news writers.  Such representational structures must be gleaned across multiple individual articles.  As Byron Calame, Public Editor of the New York Times suggests (“Drawing a Clearer Line Between News and Opinion,” New York Times, Section IV, September 24, 2006) newspapers should draw a clearer line between news and opinion.  We add to this, that newspapers, by their selective publishing of columnists and opinion pages, produces another kind of blurring – the blurring between its own editorial views and the views of its columnists.  While a newspaper may or may not explicitly assert its opinion on an editorial page, a newspaper may advocate an opinion by its choices of columnists which appear on its pages.  The columnists may or may not explicitly agree on a variety of views, but it is possible that columnists may share sufficient fundamental points of agreement, that a template emerges which, in its cumulative effect, creates a representational structure on a subject matter.  In this paper, we argue that the columnists which the Wall Street Journal publishes share sufficient fundamental points of agreement on Arabs, Muslims, and Islam that, cumulatively, supports a representational template which, by association, impacts Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, and Islam in America and reflects the constraints under which they operate politically within the American body politic.  The key components of this representational template are: 1.  There are eternal and unbridgeable unbridgeable differences between Arabs, Muslims, Islam and “us” in American and the West.  2.  Arabs, Muslims and Islam are incompatible with modernity – reflected in their oppression of women, their intolerance of others (especially their anti-Semitism); their obsessive identification with religion above other identities; their fanaticism.  3.  Terrorists all share fundamental beliefs and methods; therefore terrorists around the world are stand-ins, substitutable for, interchangeable with each other.  Terrorism is thus omnipresent and omnipotent, globally.  4. Islam is the root of most world terrorism or most world terrorism can be linked to Islam in some measure.  Arabs are at the heart of most terrorism, or can be linked to most terrorism around the world.  Al-Qaeda is the mother of all terrorist organizations.  5.  We must be vigilant of the Arab, the Muslim, Islam.  6.  Arabs, Muslims, Islam are invading America, the West, especially with their demographically exploding youthful population.  7.  The threat of Islam is comparable to the threat of fascism.  No tragedy is  comparable to 9/11 except the Holocost.  8.  The war on terror has to be fought on the home front.  Racial profiling, surveillance, curtailing civil liberties of Arab, Muslim Americans are justified in the name of national security. 

Representing/Constructing Immigrant Identity: Lebanese Oklahomans from 1901 to 1975

Kristin Shamas

Abstract: This paper examines identity construction among Lebanese immigrants and their descendants to Oklahoma, U.S.  Implementing a content analysis of The Daily Oklahoman from 1901 to 1975, the paper looks at self-representation (i.e. letters to the editor, obituaries, marriage notices) and outside representation (i.e. “news” reporting by journalists) of the Lebanese Oklahoman community in terms of nominal national identity (i.e. Turkish, Syrian, Lebanese).  The content analysis is then  juxtaposed with a database compiling genealogical information on Lebanese Oklahomans since their arrival in 1890s, thus indicating family and village origin of individuals mentioned in The Daily Oklahoman.

Research indicates the following:  During the years spanning 1901 through the late 1930s, The Daily Oklahoman demarcated three ethnicity groups in its reporting:  “Syrian,” “Black,” and “Indian.”  Other ethnicities, i.e. “Italian,” “Jewish,” “Irish” or even “White” were in no incident mentioned; the Maronite community descending from Wadi Shahrur and Bdadouin, Allay Caza, referred to themselves as “Lebanese” rather than “Syrian” more than a decade before Antiochian Orthodox from Jdeidet, Marjayoun did; both groups emphasized their Christian identity; Antiochian Orthodox from Jdeidet, Marjayoun maintained a much stronger village-based identity, being referred to and referring to themselves as descendants from their specific village rather than as descendants from “Lebanon” much more frequently than Maronites from Allay Caza.

The paper draws on historical research, interviews, and sociological patterns emerging from the database, including patterns of endogamy and exogamy, in order to contextualize the above research findings and consider Lebanese Oklahoman identity construction in terms of host-migrant, migrant-migrant, and homeland-migrant relations.  It also considers the role of global events in the local construction of identity.

Telling stories: Intergenerational patriarchal transformations of early Lebanese women immigrants

Zainab Amery

Abstract: In 2003, in London, Ontario, Canada, while I listened to my grandmother’s stories constructed and drawn from her memories of her family and her life experiences, I realized that there was much that I did not know of the experiences of the early Lebanese women.  These included patterns of female-headed households, early marriages of young girls to older males and changes to the traditional Lebanese patriarchal model as a consequence of migration patterns. I began to piece together fragments of my grandmother and mother’s narratives that served as signposts to the cultural and personal values each experienced on their journeys.  Redefined boundaries and social relationships, vis-à-vis the traditional patriarchal model, appeared to have shifted through my grandmother’s migration, and new gender experiences emerged and were transformed across generations, through the migration experience.
Utilizing the life narrative approach, my paper will examine the intergenerational transformations in the patriarchal structures of the pre-1949, first wave of Lebanese immigrant women and their daughters, focusing on the circumstances of my maternal grandmother and her family, and examining whether their experiences have a broader applicability to the diasporic Canadian-Lebanese community.  My paper will examine how women challenge conventions and traditions, and renegotiate the space of the literary narrative vis-à-vis other spaces of patriarchal power while exploring whether, and to what extent, changes in gender patterns and traditional structures are an outcome of their socialisation into “western” values and gender roles. Narratives are a living metaphor of lives engaged in recapturing meaning, and thus, my paper will explore how women reveal their awareness and negotiation of constraints, both materially and conceptually.

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