Colonization is a term that describes the oppression of one distinct people by another, usually separated by a significant spatial distance. Colonization can occur in the political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of human experience. The term metropolis or center is used to describe a colonial power, while colony or periphery is used to describe the colonized. Colonizers have tended to look for one of two things from their colonies: space, to settle surplus populations, or resources, to add to their wealth. In a colonial struggle where the aim is the incorporation of colonized territories and peoples into dominant social and cultural forms so as to facilitate economic and political subservience, the term "totalization" can be used to characterize colonial power. In the Arctic, colonial power can be identified with any process that "totalizes", working to reshape indigenous peoples and their lands so they will ultimately come to embody and reflect the colonized. This article will draw primarily on examples from the North American Arctic experience to illustrate circumpolar colonial processes and history.
In the Arctic regions of the world, colonial processes have been distinct in that they have tended to be of more recent historical lineage, they have tended not to involve an influx of agriculturally based settlers, and they have not been as frequently accompanied by military violence. More importantly, colonialism has been characterized in the Arctic by the domination of one way of life or mode of production—the western or capitalist form—over another—the gatherer and hunter form. Gatherers and hunters, whereever they have been found around the world, are known for generally egalitarian social relations and practicing comparatively low impact, sustainable resource use strategies. In the Arctic as elsewhere, the cultural emphasis is on repetition (today the word tradition is used), although Inuit are known to also value innovation and flexibility. Western or dominant modes of production are characterized by hierarchical social organization, ecologically stressful economic patterns of land use, and an emphasis on accumulation or growth—hence their structural need to totalize through colonialism.
The earliest European colonization attempts in the Arctic involved Viking settler-colony communities that were established at the end of the first millennium of the modern epoch on western Greenland and, for a brief time, on the northeastern corner of North America (see Archaeology of the Arctic: Scandinavian Settlement of the North Atlantic). There is an irony to the fact that although Arctic people were among the first to be encountered by Europeans in the modern epoch, they have been among the last to be colonized. Although the age of exploration, which followed, did lead to sporadic contact between indigenous people and Europeans, the failure to find an easy passage through northern waters to the orient, the lack of agricultural potential, and the similar lack of easily accessible mineral wealth limited these contacts and prevented them from developing into systematic colonial exploitation. The prime reason for any interest in the North American Arctic was as a passage to the orient, an interest that waned with the discovery that no such easy passage existed.
The earliest systemic contacts in much of the Arctic came in the 19th century with the whale hunt. Whales became a critical economic resource for industrializing Europe, providing oil, which lubricated industrial machinery, and providing baleen, which offered a wide variety of commercial uses (most famously as the stays in corsets). The whalers, coming from northeastern ports of the United States and from northern Europe, especially Scotland, would sometimes overwinter in the Arctic, but more frequently attempt to make the North Atlantic crossing early enough in the spring to be able to engage in whale hunting and return in the fall. Inuit were drawn into the whaling industry, providing support services for ships, engaging in trade, and most importantly providing skilled labor on smaller, whale-hunting boats that were attached to the larger ocean-going sail and steam vessels. Since the whale hunting was systematic, overexploited an important natural resource (bowhead whales were hunted to near extinction), and likely exploited Inuit labor (there are accounts of Inuit being abandoned, unpaid for their season's work; there was no overseeing authority to monitor trade, which may also have been very advantageous to the newcomers), it can be characterized as a colonial presence. Sexual relations between male whalers of European origin and Inuit women left behind the children of these liaisons almost always in the care of the mother's community with little or no paternal support—another common feature of colonial encounters. Unlike other colonized regions, no strongly identifiable and distinct "creole," "métis," or mixed blood people and culture emerged from these encounters: virtually all the children of such relations were accepted into Inuit culture.
The Yukon gold rush at the turn of the 20th century inaugurated a more recent phase of colonial resource use in the Arctic, where minerals or oil and gas represented the resource of choice. The gold rush led to an influx of miners to the mid-Yukon, providing some employment opportunities for indigenous peoples there but more often entirely displacing people from traditional subsistence territories. Although Dawson City at the turn of the century seemed a potential northern settler colonial center, and the Yukon itself as a distinct territory with its own government was created, the bust that followed the boom led to an emigration leaving behind a few of the more lucky or hardy settlers to deal with the social and ecological problems that remained with them. This pattern has not been unfamiliar in the Arctic, with a variety of very costly nonrenewable resource development projects across the circumpolar Arctic creating jobs for a migrant newcomer population and sending unprocessed resources to southern areas for the benefit of southern consumers.
Colonization of the Arctic was abetted during World War II. A massive immigration of short-term workers, mostly soldiers, in conjunction with improved transportation technologies, which made previously remote regions accessible, led to a dramatic increase in the colonial presence. Construction of the Alaska highway and the Canol pipeline in the western Arctic, for example, used aboriginal employees to some extent as guides and suppliers, while exposing isolated communities to southern influences and largely ignoring land rights. Militarization of some Arctic regions actually increased in the postwar period, as construction of the distant early warning (DEW) line—a series of air bases and radar stations— across the North American Arctic was countered by a similar set of facilities in the Soviet north. Many indigenous Arctic peoples gained their first exposure to southerners as late as the middle of the 20th century; from that time on, the contacts would be sustained and would tend to deepen. The contemporary pattern of totalizing colonial processes and local forms of resistance and subversion was established.
Although each region of the Arctic has experienced its own variety of colonization—Greenland with a longer history of crown and state-directed settlement, the Soviet Arctic with its notorious influx of gulag populations in combination with limited regional autonomy, the American purchase and settlement of Alaska, and the comparative indifference of Canadian regimes—the pattern of Arctic colonization has exhibited similarities created in large measure by the distinct indigenous cultural forms that prevailed and the distinct ecology (including remoteness) of the region. This can be illustrated by examining colonialism as a totalizing process, and corresponding efforts to decolonize or resist, from political, economic, social, and cultural aspects.
Politically, the localized nature of leadership structures among indigenous peoples of the Arctic, a leadership that was dispersed and generally diffuse, in an atmosphere of general egalitarianism and independence meant that colonial powers were not restrained in applying a doctrine of "terra nullius." Arctic lands were declared uninhabited and with a minimum of effort—the expression "showing the flag" refers to this minimum—geographically contiguous southern neighbors (or any southern power with a historic or other interest) could claim substantial territories with little opposition. The 20th century in the Arctic largely consisted of foreign powers consolidating their colonial control over various Arctic regions. What opposition they encountered tended to be from other southern powers with a conflicting colonial claim rather than from indigenous peoples, and these were not worth the effort of serious military conflict. Arctic regions tended to be managed from afar, the colonial center, with a minimum of effort. In Canada, for example, the state presence was limited until mid-century to a few scattered police officers. Missionaries and traders joined them in supporting a policy of discouraging movement to settlements and encouraging continued self-sufficiency, until a dramatic about-face in the 1950s led to an intensive settlement effort. Today nearly the whole of the Arctic region is politically subservient to southern powers or '"totalized" on the political level, the sole exception being Iceland, although a case can be made for the significant autonomy that came to Greenland through the home rule legislation of the 1970s.
However, in the last few decades of the 20th century, as indigenous people developed regional, national, and international political representation they have waged a successful struggle for Arctic autonomy within the colonial framework. The project of home rule in Greenland, Indian Self-Government in the United States as extended to Alaska (and distinct from the Alaska land claim), the creation of the Nunavut Territory and aboriginal self-government in Canada, are all manifestations of this. In most cases, the lack of large, agricultural-based settler colonies has allowed indigenous people to preserve a population majority and eventually wield it with electoral success on a regional basis. Hence, a degree of political decolonization has taken place, although within the framework of a national colonial context. Strikingly, the administrative apparatus of many of these regimes tends to be dominated by nonindigenous peoples, who usually prefer to copy southern patterns of administration over developing culturally appropriate programs and styles of operation. Governments that are politically controlled by indigenous people in the Arctic can therefore sometimes themselves be totalizing, embodying and carrying forward colonial projects. For example, in the Northwest Territories aboriginal politicians gained political control of the legislature in 1979 and were able to refashion the general policy orientation of the government there. However, they waged internecine warfare with a generation of civil servants who built careers with the previous government. Even when these administrators were replaced, the replacements were frequently more sympathetic southerners who eventually developed a distinct interest of their own. The outcome was a government more legitimate on the surface that continued to enact more subtle, totalizing policies. Similar developments have taken place in Greenland and Nunavut.
Economically, colonialism has worked to both harness and displace traditional economies. One feature that distinguishes Arctic colonialism from other historic and regional examples of economic colonialism is that, for the most part, it does not depend upon indigenous people as a labor resource or upon systematic exploitation of the colonized as workers. The traditional indigenous economies in the Arctic are sometimes mistakenly characterized as "subsistence economies," although this term is a misnomer since indigenous people thrived as much as they subsisted in the Arctic. Since the Arctic whaling period followed a single boom and bust cycle in each of the regions it passed through, although it stimulated an interest in European goods among indigenous peoples, and relied more than the colonial projects that followed on indigenous labor, it did not tend to create dependence. The Arctic fur trade that followed it was much more successful at systematically drawing Arctic inhabitants into the world economy and creating dependency relations. Unlike the Subarctic fur trade, which was focused on beaver for use as felt, the Arctic fur trade involved luxury fur production, particularly white fox. The Arctic fur trade undoubtedly had more of an impact than whaling on traditional seasonal resource use patterns and establishing a need for European-made goods, but could also be engaged in while maintaining established values and ways of life. A more complex colonial dynamic emerged in the later 20th century around fur production. In the postwar period, seal fur became of value for both industrial and commercial purposes. It was a stable and strong source of income for many Arctic hunters, who were in search of seal for meat and could easily incorporate the sale of seal fur into traditional economic patterns (indeed, much more so than was the case with white fox). In the early 1970s, the emerging animal rights movement successfully sponsored a boycott of seal fur to the European community in an effort to stop the seal pup hunt in Newfoundland and Labrador. This in turn had disastrous economic consequences for seal hunting indigenous people in Arctic regions. Ironically, Europeans had for decades encouraged indigenous people to give up utter independence and engage in the fur trade, and suddenly, as prevailing ethics around animal rights changed in Europe, began to force Inuit and other indigenous peoples out of the fur industry. Given that the impetus for decisions about the ethical right to hunt for fur was made by southern constituencies who engaged in little or no consultation with northern peoples, the animal rights movement has effectively acted itself as an even more destructive, totalizing colonial force from the perspective of Arctic indigenous peoples.
While fur trading activities attempted to harness traditional economic skills, developments in the area of mineral and oil and gas exploration have tended to entirely displace the whole traditional economic sector. The production of nonrenewable resources in Arctic regions has been characterized by "mega-projects" of enormous expense. Much of the highly paid skilled labor involved has gone to southerners; most of the capital and equity produced has gone to southern regions; even taxation revenues have tended to be captured by southern jurisdictions; and, of course, the resource itself is sent to southern markets. The north, meanwhile, has tended to be left with the environmental degradation typically resulting from these forms of economic activity, and with specialized infrastructures of limited or no use. Although the Yukon gold rush in some respects established this pattern, numerous examples from the nickel mine at Rankin Inlet to the Nanisivik mine on north Baffin can be pointed to. Most large-scale nonrenewable resource projects are of limited duration, although their impacts in terms of acculturation and environmental impact can be much longer term. The notion of the Arctic as a "resource frontier" effectively is a colonial justification for this kind of totalizing economic activity, presuming that the Arctic is a kind of resource storehouse to be accessed as the need in southern areas increases enough to make the costs of a particular nonrenewable resource development project feasible. The recent phase of global economic development, so-called "globalization," with its reconstruction of international connections and barriers, has created a context conducive to this form of economic development and augers a period of more intensive exploitation of resources and broader economic colonialism in the Arctic.
Indigenous inhabitants of the Arctic have responded in a variety of ways, which can be categorized into three types. One form of response has resulted from the financial resources and legal jurisdictions gained by indigenous peoples as a result of land claims in Alaska and Canada and as a result of control of government financial resources in Greenland: this involves using those financial resources to gain an equity position in development projects and attempting to thereby ensure that increased jobs and profits remain in Arctic regions. Criticism of this form of economic decolonization has focused on the tendency of the indigenous managers of such wealth to become an elite class who could be seen as indigenous agents of colonialism (the term comprador class is used in other regions to describe this phenomenon). On a more systemic level, this approach also establishes an indigenous interest in forms of development that may not be sustainable and not in the long-term interests of Arctic peoples. A second form of response has been to refo-cus energies on traditional economic activities through combating animal rights-sponsored boycotts of fur products and through such mechanisms as hunter support programs. Some success has been achieved in this area, although critics express concern that this involves "living in the past" and condemns indigenous people to relatively low standards of living in modern terms. It should be noted, though, that what often appears from a middle-class perspective as poverty may actually be incidental constituents of a "good life," wherein a hunter and seamstress are in control of their time and engaged in a rich tapestry of experiences whose quality defies easy assessment. A third form of response has been to develop wage sectors that use renewable resources and are compatible with traditional economies, such as cultural and ecotourism, commercial fishing and meat harvesting, or arts production. The relatively small scale and small impact of these projects has led critics to suggest that these will never become significant enough in scale to alleviate economic distress at the regional level. Taken as a whole, it is clear that indigenous peoples of the Arctic are actively in search of mechanisms to ensure a secure, sustainable, self-reliant economic future and that their resources will not be exploited solely for the benefit of colonizers.
Socially, colonialism has involved the establishment of relations of hierarchy between the colonizers and the colonized, to the benefit of the former and with sometimes severely harmful consequences for the latter. In Arctic regions, the smallness of the settler colony and its comparative transience has lent a particular character to this dynamic. Whenever missionaries, traders, police personnel, soldiers, and administrators have traveled to the Arctic, and usually the early generations of nurses, teachers, and social workers who followed, they have occupied the best available settlement housing and usually have had the best of the material goods and technology available in any given community. Hence, this material fact has buttressed an ideological notion of superiority. It is still normally the case that southern transient professionals live in better circumstances than their indigenous neighbors, although admittedly this is usually if the comparison is made on southern standards and norms. Nevertheless, the misperceptions and material differences have led to the creation of separate social spheres for the colonizers and the colonized, a dynamic that continues to have influence into the present.
The smallness of the settler colony in Arctic regions has frequently led to the establishment of very close relations among the small numbers of newcomers to a particular Arctic community. The comparative transience of this population has exacerbated the situation. One of the striking features of aboriginal communities where they have a land base intact is that they involve populations where intergenerational social exchange leading from an indefinite past into an indefinite future remains a viable possibility. In contrast, western society in the modern period is characterized by social transience and individuals are severed from particular communities in order to sell their labor power at the highest price. This transience is compounded in a northern context to which newcomers will immigrate most commonly for short periods of a few years. Those newcomers engaged in policing, medical work, and social work, in particular, frequently experience in their work the worst of the social problems that plague Arctic communities. Hence in leisure hours they often prefer each other's company, where the tendency among them is to reinforce a highly pessimistic view of community life, which they will take back south with them when they emigrate. At a systemic level, this perceptual distortion leads to a sense that indigenous people of the Arctic are not capable of self-management and require state support and southern expertise to function. The social situation helps create a perception that buttresses a claim for the necessity of continued colonial involvement. In effect, this is a modern-day version of the reprehensible ideology that there exists a "white man's burden," which served colonialism in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Aboriginal people of the Arctic were seen as a particularly far-flung and exotic version of "savages" or "primitives" on the low end of the social evolutionary scale, and the racism they experienced flowed from ethnocentric judgments of this type. Interestingly, the intellectual work of Franz Boaz, based on fieldwork with Cumberland Sound Inuit, helped develop the notion of "cultural relativism" (the idea that cultures should be assessed within their own standards and not expected to meet a universal, usually European inflected, standard), which in the 20th century displaced the 19th-century social evolutionary framework. Racism was a feature of colonial social life in the Arctic even after World War II, when official policies involving racism had been discredited. Indigenous peoples suffered under insidious forms of paternalism that assumed they were incapable of managing their lives. Such programs as handing out disks with "e-numbers" in Canada for use instead of proper names as a mechanism for administrative regulation and surveillance were the result. Ethnocentrism, which involves a systematic lack of appreciation for and denigration of indigenous cultures, continues to be a critical feature conditioning colonial social relations in the Arctic.
In terms of social relations among the colonized, the most striking impact of colonialism has been in the area of gender relations, although the scholarly literature is quite divided over the question of how to characterize this. Those who maintain that traditional gender relations were characterized by male dominance have argued that colonialism led to improvements in the conditions of women and severe hardships for men. However, there is strong evidence that gender relations were traditionally more egalitarian or balanced between women and men, and that colonialism involved the imposition of patriarchal social relations. Certainly the fact that colonial administrators presumed that males were heads of households and political leaders, that families followed male lineage, and that western notions of public and private distinctions should prevail all worked to specifically disadvantage indigenous women, whatever their traditional place may have been.
The response to social divisions has varied strikingly, ranging from almost systematic attempts to accept the hierarchy and work one's way up the scale to utter rejection of social intercourse with newcomers. With the improved political position of indigenous peoples in some Arctic regions, the older hierarchies have been partially displaced. Certainly an emergent class of western educated indigenous people and a cosmopolitan leadership have had a significant impact on social relations at the community level. Meanwhile, as ethnocentric judgments respecting quality of life ebb and are replaced by a somewhat better appreciation of traditional skills and competencies, even more traditional families are finding themselves somewhat better respected by a portion of the newcomers and those western educated individuals from their own culture. Social dynamics in Arctic communities are for the most part clearly led by indigenous community members, although problems, conflicts, and misperceptions across the colonial social divide remain a feature of Arctic social life.
Culturally the impact of colonialism has been complex and far reaching. In general, it can be noted that the ethnocentrism that was presupposed by and simultaneously constitutive of colonialism in the Arctic was particularly egregious given the very poor understanding of indigenous cultures that prevailed. As a result, both systematic policies of cultural assimilation and accidental or only partly intentional impacts of the import of southern mass culture and technologies of mass cultural dissemination have had a powerful totalizing impact, particularly in regions of the Arctic attached to the Western Hemisphere. The commodifi-cation of indigenous cultures may represent the latest phase of cultural colonialism in the Arctic. Three aspects of culture serve as examples of the particular dynamic of cultural colonialism in Arctic regions: values, language, and spiritual belief.
In terms of values, the most trenchant colonial divide is in the sphere of property relations. The possessive individualism that remains a foundation of western social relations and values is in stark contrast to cooperative social forms and the values associated with comparatively communal property relations of indigenous gathering and hunting-based cultures. Cultural forms associated with possessive individualism frequently come into conflict with cultural forms associated with forms of generalized reciprocity (sharing), and although the former are visibly in evidence the latter have not disappeared. Hence, for example, nuclear family style housing has replaced nomadic architectures in much—not all—of the Arctic, signaling a space wherein private property is nurtured and protected. Yet the characteristic "open door" of Arctic life—wherein one enters without knocking—acts somewhat to subvert the private, possessive mode. Since legal structures developed in southern regions are frequently applied to northern jurisdictions, since contemporary popular culture presumes and constitutes desire for goods, and since wealth in the form of money has assumed a central role in Arctic economies, it can be said that an interlinked network of powerful totalizing forces is at work to displace and undermine traditional cultural values. Acting against these forces are the patient teachings of elders, the continued economic necessity of cooperation in hunting and meat distribution practices, and the more mysterious power of a tradition that is not static or hidebound but has proven to be adaptive and surprisingly resilient.
In the sphere of language, a critical component of culture, something of a pattern may be discerned in the colonial 20th century. While the early part of the century tended to involve the increasing dominance of the language of the colonizers of Arctic regions— English, Danish, Russian, and so on—in the later part cultural revitalization movements working in conjunction with political decolonization projects have in many areas turned back the tide. For example, in Canada Inuktitut is one of the three aboriginal languages not in danger of immanent extinction. It is not unusual to find at the community level an older generation that speaks solely the indigenous language, a middle-aged generation that speaks either or both languages, a somewhat younger generation that speaks only in the words of the colonizers, and a newer generation that is bilingual. On the other hand, a totalizing linguistic device that has entrenched itself with somewhat more success is colonial nominalism. This involves the imposition of the colonizer's style or mode of naming. The naming of an island in the Arctic as the Royal Geographical Society of Great Britain Island will serve as a particularly sorry example. Naming geographic features after people is a form of nominalism often foreign to indigenous inhabitants of the Arctic, to whom it may imply insulting the land, and certainly serve as a way of marking totalizing appropriation of land. The irony of a mapped Arctic containing the names of Davis, Baffin, Herschel, and so on should not be lost on contemporary observers. More pernicious than when applied to landscape, colonial nominalism in personal naming practices was a powerful colonial tool, disrupting an intricate, age-old practice of carrying on the names of recently deceased among Inuit, for example, an ancient practice that avoided inscribing either patri- or matrilineage. As late as 1967 in Canada, a deliberate state-sponsored project of developing last names worked to inscribe patriarchal social relations and to disrupt traditional naming patterns. On the other hand, Inuit have engaged in a powerful but understated resistance to colonial nominalism by adapting western names to Inuit linguistic forms and, to some extent, working within the existing confines to continue older naming patterns.
The realm of spiritual belief involves among the most complex of cultural conflicts in Arctic regions. For the most part, varieties of Christian practice, involving the institutionalization of spiritual belief, took a strong hold of many Arctic regions through the 19 th and early 20th century. These were deliberately disseminated by missionaries and, as in other parts of the colonial world, helped pave the way for colonial political, economic, and social forms. However, the manner of adoption of Christian messages and practices in many places owes a strong debt to more traditional approaches to spirituality and sometimes shares, at a formal level, features with what on the surface they utterly reject. For example, the gospel that stresses compassion and sharing may have had a strong appeal within the context of traditional indigenous values; similarly, the many indigenous prophet movements across the Arctic and Subarctic attest to indigenous attempts to refashion Christian messages. Also, widespread synchretic movements in the Arctic suggest resistance and are evidence of attempts to appropriate Christian messages within an indigenous cultural and spiritual context. The impact of increased secularization is being felt across the Arctic and itself may open the door to a resurgence of interest in traditional spiritual forms, as has been the case to some extent among indigenous peoples in southern regions of Canada and the United States, and in shamanism in Russia and Siberia.
A contemporary cultural revitalization movement has swept across the Arctic, echoing similar developments among indigenous peoples in other parts of the globe, but again with unique characteristics. The most striking feature of this is the use of contemporary technologies of mass media to produce and consume Inuit cultural goods: the example of a quite vibrant Greenlandic Inuit music industry, which produces
Inuktitut popular music, serves to illustrate the sometimes startling and original character of these newer cultural products. The critically successful feature film "Attanarjuat: The Fast Runner," produced by Isuma Productions of Iglulik, Nunavut, perhaps better illustrates the aesthetic potential and power of contemporary indigenous culture. These can be seen as more recent versions of the production of indigenous cultural commodities; an older modality that continues to thrive includes visual art productions such as prints and sculptures. A concern is that these kinds of products rely on their status as commodities in order to be made, and thereby bring production for the market, often a foreign market, into the heart of cultural activity. Commodification may be establishing itself as the most recent form of cultural colonialism in Arctic regions and its most subtle totalizing power.
The last century in the Arctic has been historically defined by the dynamic of extension of colonial power and forms of indigenous resistance to it. Colonial power has been carried by the newer technologies, administrative languages, economic necessities, and cultural forms of this late phase in western modernism. Yet, the project of decolonization has had a remarkable degree of success. Identifiable indigenous communities continue to thrive in the Arctic and have gained unprecedented, albeit ultimately limited, political power. While the century began under the influence of a narrative of cultural disappearance—the vanishing race—that was supposed to be the story of indigenous peoples, the century ended by defying expectations. New narratives of cultural persistence are being written, and a newer appreciation for the strength of indigenous cultures and their ability to resist colonialism has developed.
Peter Kulchyski See also Self-Determination; Self-Government
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Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 1988 Brody, Hugh, The People's Land, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1977
———, The Other Side of Eden, Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 2000
Sleskine, Yuri, Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994 Tester, Frank & Peter Kulchyski, Tammarniit (Mistakes),
Vancouver; University of British Columbia Press, 1994 Vakhtia, Nikolai, "Native peoples of the Russian Far North." In Polar Peoples: Self-Determination and Development, edited by Minority Rights Group, London: Minority Rights Publications, 1994 Watkins, Mel (editor), Dene Nation: The Colony Within,
Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978 Wolfe, Eric R., Europe and the People Without History, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982
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