Élisabeth Roudinesco

Élisabeth Roudinesco (Romanian: Rudinescu; born 10 September 1944) is a French historian and psychoanalyst, affiliated researcher in history at Paris Diderot University, in the group « Identités-Cultures-Territoires ».[1] She also conducts a seminar on the history of psychoanalysis at the École Normale Supérieure. Biographer of Jacques Lacan and Sigmund Freud, she mainly worked on the situation of psychoanalysis worldwide but also published on the history of French Revolution, perverts and perversion, philosophy and Judaism. She has been awarded The Prix Décembre 2014 and The Prix des Prix 2014 for her biography of Freud, Freud, In his Time and Ours published by Harvard University Press. Her work has been translated into thirty languages.

Élisabeth Roudinesco
Elisabeth Roudinesco
Élisabeth Roudinesco in 2007
Born10 September 1944 (age 74)
AwardsPrix Decembre 2014 & Prix des Prix 2014 for Freud, In His Time and Ours, Cambridge, H.U.P., 2016 and Prix de la Société française d'Histoire de la Médecine for Généalogies, Paris, Fayard, 1996
Scientific career
FieldsHistorian & Psychoanalyst
InfluencesGeorges Canguilhem; Michel Foucault; Michel de Certeau; Henri Ellenberger; Jacques Lacan


Roudinesco was born to half-Jewish parents in newly liberated Paris in September 1944, and grew up there. Her mother was Jenny Aubry, née Weiss, a daughter of the Judeo-Protestant bourgeoise, a renowned psychoanalyst and hospital neuro-paediatrician who spent her whole life looking after suffering children: abandoned, ill and in difficulty. She was an anglophile who, in the 1950s, introduced to France John Bowlby's theories on the importance of maternal care, and she worked in collaboration with the Tavistock Clinic in London. She was a friend of Jacques Lacan - and whose sister was the feminist Louise Weiss, of the Javal family. Her father was physician Alexandre Roudinesco, of Romanian origin, who had "a passion for history and a phenomenal library". He was born in Bucharest in a Jewish and francophile milieu, and his father had been an editor.[2]

She received her secondary education in Paris at the Collège Sévigné. She studied Literature at the Sorbonne, with a minor in Linguistics; her master's degree was supervised by Tzvetan Todorov, and her doctoral thesis, entitled Inscription du désir et roman du sujet [Inscription of the desire and novel of the subject], by Jean Levaillant at the Université Paris VIII-Vincennes in 1975.

She also took classes with Michel de Certeau, Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault at the time of her master's degree. She next defended her "habilitation à diriger des recherches" (H.D.R – the French accreditation needed to supervise doctoral dissertations) in 1991 with Michelle Perrot as supervisor and Alain Corbin, Dominique Lecourt, Jean-Claude Passeron, Robert Castel, and Serge Leclaire as members of the examining committee. This work was published under the title Généalogies.

From 1969 to 1981, she was a member of the École Freudienne de Paris, founded by psychoanalyst and philosopher Jacques Lacan. She was also a member of the editorial board of Action Poétique (1969–1979). She has written for French national newspapers, Libération (1986–1996), and then Le Monde since 1996.

For the past 30 years, she has been married to, Olivier Bétourné, CEO of Éditions du Seuil.



In the 1970s, Elisabeth Roudinesco's first works dealt with literary criticism, notably with Raymond Roussel, Antonin Artaud, Bertolt Brecht and Louis-Ferdinand Céline. At that time, her work concerned linking a singular trajectory and an author's work, without resorting to psycho-biography, in other words, the psychologization of literary work by the clinical study of its author. This approach allowed her to demonstrate that most of 20th century literature has been influenced by the history of Freudianism and psychological medicine based on the theory of degeneration.[3]

History of psychoanalysis in France

From 1979, Elisabeth Roudinesco writes a history of psychoanalysis in France. At that time, the main model was still the biography, because the archives and documents of the psychoanalytical movement were still in the hand of Freud's heirs.

Indeed, this model corresponded to the historiographical trend centered on the notion of the founding father figure; a trend which is at the core of any quest of origins. However, this model has gradually declined.

Considering how psychoanalysis was established as a movement and system of thought, Elisabeth Roudinesco asserted that France was the only country where all the necessary conditions were gathered together, over a long period of time, to successfully establish Freudianism in scientific and cultural life. According to Elisabeth Roudinesco, this favorable situation dated back first to the French Revolution of 1789 which provided a scientific and legal legitimacy to reason, heed/gaze over madness, giving birth to the institution of the asylum. Then, the Dreyfus affair, which has precipitated the arrival of intellectuals' self-awareness as a class. Designating themselves as an 'avant-garde', they furnished fruitful and innovative ideas. Finally, the emergence of literary modernity with Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Lautréamont, who enunciate, in a new style of writing, the project of changing man through "I is another".


Scholarly historiography emerged with such work as Henri Ellenberger's The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry, first published in 1970. Though this book had been known in English-speaking countries since that date, the book (published in French in 1974) remained largely unnoticed in France. Elisabeth Roudinesco republished it with a lengthy new preface in 1994.[4]

In his work, Ellenberger developed a conceptuality of freudianism founded on archivistics and reference to the concepts of "mental tools", "long length" and "system of thought". This last category proposed presenting doctrines in their own terms and structures. The study of the system of thought of dynamic psychiatry, psychotherapies and psychological medicine no longer echoes back to a single founder, but to a plurality of singular itineraries, shattering the biographic model.[4]

From Ellenberger's thesis, Elisabeth Roudinesco retained several guiding principles, while adding methodology derived from the works of the French epistemological school: Georges Canguilhem and Michel Foucault. Thus, the study of system of thought becomes the form in which, at a given time, knowledge achieves independence, finding balance and entering into communication: a history of a man who thinks, systems which intertwine, but also a critical analysis of the concepts of consciousness and subject of knowledge.[4]


In 1993, Elisabeth Roudinesco published a biography of French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. From 1938, Lacan felt preoccupied by the generalized decline of the patriarchy and tried, like Freud and the English school, to promote the father figure within Western society, under the form of a symbolic function. Roudinesco highlighted the fact that the genius of Lacan's work is the introduction of elements from German philosophy (e.g., Nietzsche, Hegel, Heidegger) within the Freudian doctrine – creating a phenomenon Freud would have never conceived himself, since he built his theory on a biological model (darwinism), by consciously refusing to consider and include any philosophical discourses, contemporary or ancient, in his thought process.


Physician and philosopher Raymond Tallis wrote a scathing review of the first English language translation of Roudinesco's biography, stating "The innocence with which Roudinesco reports all kinds of clinical cock-ups [in Lacan's medical career] makes this book a particularly disturbing read for a medic."[5] On the opposite, John Forester, former head of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University praised her work by saying that it is the most subtle and valuable work done on a national situation alongside with the work of Nathan Hale done on the American situation of psychoanalysis.

Théroigne de Mericourt

From the study of the melancholic Théroigne de Mericourt (1989), early feminist and famous case of the annals of French alienism – she has been 'gazed' by Etienne Esquirol in La Salpêtrière – Roudinesco think the French Revolution is a paradigm in the French situation of Freudianism. For Roudinesco, it was necessary to include the analysis of patients into the analysis of doctrines as a major constituting element of the discourses of psychopathology.

Freudianism and politic

Roudinesco think that invariant conditions are required to introduce Freudian ideas and establish psychoanalytical movement in a given space. First, a psychiatric knowledge must have been previously constituted, namely a gaze over madness able to conceptualize the notion of mental illness to the detriment of explanation such as divine possession. Secondly, the existence of a State of right capable of guaranteeing the free practice of a transmission like the transferential kind.

Whenever one or both of theses elements are lacking it explains why the establishment of Freudianism has not been possible (era of the world influenced by Islam or whom the organization is still tribal) or its disappearance ( under totalitarian regime, nazism and communism). She notices that military dictatorship didn't refrain the expansion of psychoanalysis in South American (notably Brazil and Argentina). Roudinesco assesses that caudillo regimes didn't try to eradicate psychoanalysis as a "jewish science" as did Nazism in the years 1933–1944 nor as a "bourgeois science" as did communism over the period 1945–1989.[6]

Political standing

Since 1997, she has expressed political standing in various public debates. She stands in debates such as laicity, cloning, genetics, innate and acquired. She fiercely criticized INSERM's reports of experts over psychotherapies. In that sense, she is one of the very first signer of Pas de Zéro de Conduite's petition against systematic detection of delinquency of children under three years of age, as advocated by another INSERM's reports.


Her book, a biography of Sigmund Freud, has been awarded the Prix Decembre 2014 and then, the Prix des Prix 2014. Professor Emeritus of Psychology (Université catholique de Louvain) Jacques Van Rillaer has produced a critical review of this book.[7] On the opposite, John Forester, former head of Department History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University praised her work by saying that it is the most subtle and valuable work done on a national situation alongside with the work of Nathan Hale done on the American situation of psychoanalysis.

Available in English

  • Jacques Lacan & Co.: a history of psychoanalysis in France, 1925–1985, 1990, Chicago, Chicago University Press
  • Madness and Revolution: The Lives and Legends of Theroigne De Mericourt, 1993, Verso.
  • Jacques Lacan, 1999, New York, Columbia University Press.
  • Why Psychoanalysis? 2003, New York, Columbia University Press (European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought and Cultural Criticism)
  • "The Mirror stage: an obliterated archive" in The Cambridge Companion to Lacan, Jean-Michel Rabaté dir., 2003, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • For What Tomorrow... : A Dialogue with Jacques Derrida, 2004, Palo Alto, Stanford University Press.
  • "Psychoanalysis" in The Columbia History of Twentieth-Century French Thought, Lawrence D. Kriztman dir., 2006, New York, Columbia University Press.
  • Philosophy in Turbulent Times: Canguilhem, Sartre, Foucault, Althusser, Deleuze, Derrida, 2008, New York, Columbia University Press.
  • « Lacan, The Plague »,Psychoanalysis and History, ed. John Forrester, Teddington, Artesian Books, 2008.
  • "Humanity and its gods: atheism", Psychoanalysis and History, ed. Julia Borossa and Ivan Ward, Volume 11, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press.
  • Our Dark Side, a History of Perversion, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2009.
  • Revisiting the Jewish Question, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2013.
  • Lacan. In Spite of Everything, London, Verso Books, 2014.
  • Lacan. Past and Present (with philosopher Alain Badiou), New York, Columbia University Press, 2014.
  • Freud, In His time and Ours, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2016.

Available in Spanish

  • Diccionario de Psicoanalisis, con Michel Plon, 1998, Ediciones Paidos.
  • Pensar La Locura, Ensayos sobre Michel Foucault, con J.Postel y G. Canguilhem, 1999, Paidos Argentina.
  • Por Que El Psicoanalisis? 2000, Paidos Argentina.
  • Lacan – Esbozo de una vida, Historia de un sistema de pensamiento, 2000, Fondo De Cultura Economica USA.
  • La Familia en Desorden, 2003, Fondo De Cultura Economica USA.
  • El Paciente, El Terapeuta y El Estado, 2005, Siglo XXI.
  • Nuestro lado oscuro – oskuro, Anagrama cheto.

Available in French

  • Initiation à la linguistique générale, 1967, Paris, L'Expansion scientifique française.
  • Un Discours au réel : théorie de l'inconscient et politique de la psychanalyse, 1973, Tours, Mame.
  • L'Inconscient et ses lettres, 1975, Tours, Mame.
  • Pour une politique de la psychanalyse, 1977, Paris, La Découverte.
  • La Psychanalyse mère et chienne, avec H.Deluy, 1979, Paris, Union Générale d'Editions.
  • Théroigne de Méricourt. Une femme mélancolique sous la Révolution, 1989, Paris, Le Seuil.
  • Jacques Lacan. Esquisse d'une vie, histoire d'un système de pensée, 1993, Paris, Fayard.
  • Histoire de la psychanalyse en France, vol.1, 1994, Paris, Fayard.
  • Histoire de la psychanalyse en France, vol.2, 1994, Paris, Fayard.
  • Généalogies, 1994, Paris, Fayard.
  • Dictionnaire de la psychanalyse, avec Michel Plon, 1997, Paris, Fayard.
  • Pourquoi la psychanalyse?, 1999, Paris, Fayard.
  • Au-delà du conscient : histoire illustrée de la psychiatrie et de la psychanalyse, avec J.P. Bourgeron et P.Morel, 2000, Paris, Hazan.
  • L'Analyse, l'archive, 2001, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
  • La Famille en désordre, 2002, Paris, Fayard.
  • Le Patient, le thérapeute et l'État, 2004, Paris, Fayard.
  • Philosophes dans la tourmente, 2005, Paris, Fayard.
  • La part obscure de nous-mêmes – Une histoire des pervers, Albin Michel, Paris, 2007.
  • Retour sur la question juive, Albin Michel, Paris, 2009.

Available in Italian

  • Jacques Lacan : profilo di una vita, storia di un sistema di pensiero, Milano: R. Cortina, 1995.
  • Perché la Psicanalisi? prefazione di Giancarlo Ricci, Roma: Editori Riuniti, 2000.
  • Quale domani...? con Jacques Derrida, Torino : Bollati Boringhieri, 2004.
  • Antropologia della cura, A cura di Elisabeth Roudinesco e Roberto Beneduce, Bollati Boringhieri, 2005
  • Antropologia e Psicanalisi. Vol. I Etnopsicanalisi. Temi e protagonisti di un dialogo incompiuto. Vol. II Antropologia della cura, Torino, Bollati Boringhieri, 2005. A cura di Elisabeth Roudinesco e Roberto Beneduce.
  • La famiglia in disordine, Roma : Meltemi, 2006.
  • La parte oscura di noi stessi.Una storia dei perversi, Colla Editore 2008

Available in German

  • Die Geschichte der Psychoanalyse in Frankreich. Band I, 1994
  • Die Geschichte der Psychoanalyse in Frankreich. Band II, 1998
  • Jacques Lacan. Bericht über ein Leben. Geschichte eines Denksystems, 1996, Kiepenheuer & Witsch.
  • Wozu Psychoanalyse?, 2002, Klett-Cotta.
  • Wörterbuch der Psychoanalyse, 2004, Wien, Springer.
  • Woraus wird Morgen gemacht sein? Ein Dialog, J.Derrida, 2006, Klett-Cotta.

Available in Portuguese

  • Jacques Lacan, Zahar, 1994.
  • Théroigne de Méricourt – Uma Mulher Melancólica durante a Revolução, Zahar, 1997.
  • Dicionario de psicanalise, Michel Plon, Zahar, 1998.
  • De Que Amanhã..., Jacques Derrida, Zahar, 2004.
  • Filósofos na tormenta,Canguilhem, Sartre, Foucault, Althusser, Deleuze e Derrida, Zahar, 2008.
  • A Parte Obscura de Nós Mesmo, Zahar, 2009.
  • Retorno à Questão Judaica, Zahar, 2010.
  • Lacan, a Despeito de Tudo e de Todos, Zahar, 2011.

Available in Polish

  • Elisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan. Jego życie i myśl, Wydawnictwo KR, Warszawa 2005.

Critical literature

  • Nathalie Jaudel
    • Roudinesco, plagiaire de soi-même (suivi de : Lacan, Maurras et les Juifs). Éditions Navarin, Paris, 2011
    • La légende noire de Jacques Lacan : Élisabeth Roudinesco et sa méthode historique. Éditions Navarin, Paris, 2014

See also


  1. ^ (in French) Élisabeth Roudinesco. Université Paris Diderot - Paris 7. Laboratoire ICT, UFR GHES.
  2. ^ Freud: In His Time and Ours, by Élisabeth Roudinesco (review). By Janet Sayers. Times Higher Education, November 10, 2016.
  3. ^ Roudinesco, L'inconscient et ses lettres, Mame, 1979
  4. ^ a b c Partially based on Roudinesco, Généalogies, Paris, Fayard, 1994.
  5. ^ Tallis, Raymond (1997) "The Shrink from Hell". The Times Higher Education Supplement, 31 October 1997, p. 20.
  6. ^ Partially based on « Parcours de recherche: Élisabeth Roudinesco », Entretien avec Frédéric Gros et Franck Chaumon. Raisons politiques, 2007/1 nº 25 (in French).
  7. ^ (in French) Sigmund Freud en son temps et dans le nôtre, Seuil, 2014 - Note de lecture de Jacques Van Rillaer
Adam Phillips (psychologist)

Adam Phillips (born 19 September 1954) is a British psychotherapist and essayist.

Since 2003 he has been the general editor of the new Penguin Modern Classics translations of Sigmund Freud. He is also a regular contributor to the London Review of Books.

Joan Acocella, writing in The New Yorker, described Phillips as "Britain's foremost psychoanalytic writer", an opinion echoed by historian Élisabeth Roudinesco in Le Monde.

Daniel Lagache

Daniel Lagache (December 3, 1903 – December 3, 1972) was a French physician, psychoanalyst, and professor at the Sorbonne. He was born and died in Paris.

Lagache became was one of the leading figures in twentieth century French psychoanalysis.

Ego psychology

Ego psychology is a school of psychoanalysis rooted in Sigmund Freud's structural id-ego-superego model of the mind.

An individual interacts with the external world as well as responds to internal forces. Many psychoanalysts use a theoretical construct called the ego to explain how that is done through various ego functions. Adherents of ego psychology focus on the ego's normal and pathological development, its management of libidinal and aggressive impulses, and its adaptation to reality.

Foreclosure (psychoanalysis)

Foreclosure (also known as "foreclusion"; French: forclusion) is the English translation of a term that the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan introduced into psychoanalysis to identify a specific psychical cause for psychosis.

François Perrier (psychoanalyst)

François Perrier (25 July 1922 – 2 August 1990) was a French doctor, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst.

Perrier played a prominent role in Lacanian and in post-Lacanian psychoanalysis.

Françoise Dolto

Françoise Dolto (French: [dɔlto]; 1908–1988), was a French pediatrician and psychoanalyst.

Jenny Aubry

Jenny Aubry (8 October 1903 – 21 January 1987) was a French psychiatrist and psychoanalyst.


Lacanianism is the study of, and development of, the ideas and theories of the dissident French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. Beginning as a commentary on the writings of Freud, Lacanianism developed into a new psychoanalytic theory of humankind, and spawned a worldwide movement of its own.

It has been argued that Lacan's work must be read as presupposing the entire content of classical Freudianism, otherwise it would simply be another philosophy or intellectual system"

Lacanianism began as a philosophical/linguistic re-interpretation of Freud's original teachings. How far it subsequently became an independent body of thought has been, and remains, a matter of debate. Lacan himself famously informed his followers: It is up to you to be Lacanians if you wish. I am a Freudian

The wide extent of Lacan's evolving intellectual stances, and his inability to find a settled institutional framework for his work, has meant that over time the Lacanian movement has been subject to numerous schisms and continuing divisions.

Laure Murat

Laure Murat (born 1967, Paris) is a French historian and writer.

Lycée Racine

The lycée Racine is a public school in the quartier de l'Europe located in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. It consists of a lycée as well as BTS assistant manager and BTS bank staff courses. It takes the name of Jean Racine, playwright and historiographer to the King.

The main site is served by the métro stations of Saint-Lazare, Saint-Augustin and Europe. The second site (Naples) is served by the stations Villiers, Europe and Miromesnil.

Maud Mannoni

Maud Mannoni (French: [mod manoni]; 23 October 1923 – 15 March 1998) was a French psychoanalyst of Belgian origin, who married Octave Mannoni and became a major figure of the Lacanian movement.

Michel Onfray

Michel Onfray (French: [miʃɛl ɔ̃fʁɛ]; born 1 January 1959) is a contemporary French writer and philosopher who defends a hedonistic, epicurean and atheist world view. He is a highly prolific author on philosophy, having written more than 100 books.He has gained notoriety for writing such works as Traité d'athéologie: Physique de la métaphysique (translated into English as Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), Politique du rebelle: traité de résistance et d'insoumission, Physiologie de Georges Palante, portrait d'un nietzchéen de gauche, La puissance d'exister and La sculpture de soi for which he won the annual Prix Médicis in 1993.

His philosophy is mainly influenced by such thinkers as Nietzsche, Epicurus, the cynic and cyrenaic schools, and French materialism.

Paris Diderot University

Paris Diderot University, also known as Paris 7 (French: Université Paris Diderot (Paris 7)), is a French university located in Paris, France.

It was one of the heirs of the University of Paris, which ceased to exist in 1970. Professors from the faculties of Science, of Medicine and of Humanities chose then to create a new multidisciplinary university. It adopted its current name in 1994 after the 18th-century French philosopher, art critic and writer Denis Diderot.

With two Nobel Prize laureates, two Fields Medal winners and two former French Ministers of Education among its faculty or former faculty, the university is famous for its teaching in science, especially in mathematics. Indeed, many fundamental results of the theory of probability have been discovered at one of its research centres, the Laboratoire de Probabilités et Modèles Aléatoires (Laboratory of Probability and Random Models). The university is also known for its teaching in psychology, which adopts a specific approach that draws from both psychopathology and psychoanalysis.

The university also hosts many other disciplines: currently, with 2,300 educators and researchers, 1,100 administrative personnel and 26,000 students studying humanities, science or medicine.Paris Diderot University is a founding member of the higher education and research alliance Sorbonne Paris Cité, a public institution for scientific co-operation, bringing together four renowned Parisian universities and four higher education and research institutes.Formerly based at the Jussieu Campus, in the 5th arrondissement, the university moved to a new campus in the 13th arrondissement, in the Paris Rive Gauche neighbourhood. The first buildings were brought into use in 2006. The university has many facilities in Paris and two in other places of the general area. In 2012, the university completed its move in its new ultramodern campus.

Romanians in France

Romanian French is the term for a French citizen of Romanian heritage, born in Romania and living as an emigrant in France or being born in France from a Romanian immigrant family, that came to France at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, there are c. 18,000 Romanian-born citizens living in France, and an unknown number of French citizens of Romanian ancestry.

Sacha Nacht

Sacha Emanoel Nacht (23 September 1901 – 20 March 1977) was a Romanian-born French psychiatrist and psychoanalyst.


In sociology, anthropology, and linguistics, structuralism is the methodology that implies elements of human culture must be understood by way of their relationship to a broader, overarching system or structure. It works to uncover the structures that underlie all the things that humans do, think, perceive, and feel. Alternatively, as summarized by philosopher Simon Blackburn, structuralism is "the belief that phenomena of human life are not intelligible except through their interrelations. These relations constitute a structure, and behind local variations in the surface phenomena there are constant laws of abstract structure".Structuralism in Europe developed in the early 1900s, in the structural linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure and the subsequent Prague, Moscow and Copenhagen schools of linguistics. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, when structural linguistics were facing serious challenges from the likes of Noam Chomsky and thus fading in importance, an array of scholars in the humanities borrowed Saussure's concepts for use in their respective fields of study. French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss was arguably the first such scholar, sparking a widespread interest in structuralism.The structuralist mode of reasoning has been applied in a diverse range of fields, including anthropology, sociology, psychology, literary criticism, economics and architecture. The most prominent thinkers associated with structuralism include Claude Lévi-Strauss, linguist Roman Jakobson, and psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. As an intellectual movement, structuralism was initially presumed to be the heir apparent to existentialism. However, by the late 1960s, many of structuralism's basic tenets came under attack from a new wave of predominantly French intellectuals such as the philosopher and historian Michel Foucault, the philosopher Jacques Derrida, the Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser, and the literary critic Roland Barthes. Though elements of their work necessarily relate to structuralism and are informed by it, these theorists have generally been referred to as post-structuralists. In the 1970s, structuralism was criticized for its rigidity and ahistoricism. Despite this, many of structuralism's proponents, such as Lacan, continue to assert an influence on continental philosophy and many of the fundamental assumptions of some of structuralism's post-structuralist critics are a continuation of structuralism.

Édouard Pichon

Édouard Pichon (24 June 1890 – 20 January 1940) was a French pediatrician, grammarian and psychoanalyst. He was born in Sarcelles and died in Paris.

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