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A Call for Renewal in Ethnographic Research: The

researcher as both the subject and object of


knowledge
Abstract
Our critique of tourism ethnographic research argues that too much existing
published work tends to cite preceding studies as methodological precedents
without stating how particular approaches were operationalised. Moreover,
findings are often presented as individual cases with limited utility in terms of
theory building or wider understanding of contextual phenomena. We argue that
closer attention, first to current developments within anthropology, which seek to
overcome researcher naivety and second, greater philosophical reflexivity, would
elevate both the rigour with which such work is undertaken and the seriousness
with which it is received in the wider academy. We call for a double-reflexivity in
ethnographic research in tourism that accepts both the specific situational nature
of individual studies and the wider discursive frames within which they are
embedded. We call for constant reflection on, and acknowledgment of, this
duality in ethnographic research where, after all, the researcher is so intimately
embedded in empirical and subjective terms.

Key Words
Philosophy; Subjectivity; Reflexivity; Ethnography, Hermeneutics, Expressive
phenomenology

Acknowledgement
We wish to pay tribute to the late Professor Richard Prentice with whom we had
initiated this project shortly before he passed away. We also thank his wife,
Vivien Andersen, for granting us continued access to his papers. Many of
Richards ideas formed the original impetus for this paper and we hope our
development of them does him justice.

Double Reflexivity in Ethnographic Research: The


researcher as both the subject and object of
knowledge
This article is prompted by some concerns with those uses of ethnography in
tourism research which privileges the single ethnographer engaged in brief,
stand-alone, periods of fieldwork. Our call is for multiple, associated,
ethnographies to express the diversity and potential in association of such
expression. This call flows from a hallmark of ethnographic method: namely, that
ethnography is personal but that the subjectivities it proceeds from and return to
are collective. Personal knowledge requires the far reaching participation of the
knower . Further, people express themselves variably in highly interpretive
situations, and in this respect ethnographic research in tourism shares many
features with so-called creative tourism as theorised by Prentice and Andersen
and Richards and Wilson . Hom Cary reflects on the theoretical challenges
inherent in capturing the moment where the dissolution of immediate tourist
experience dissolves into wider narrative or discursive situatedness. Scarles ,
meanwhile, locates a similar moment of individual dissolution and intersubjective becoming in tourists production of photography and its subsequent
incorporation in a wider discursive realm. We suggest that this problematic is
also present in the case of individual tourism researchers adopting ethnographic
methods where the immediacy of experience, its expression and subsequent
enunciation in and as discourse is concerned. The boundary between
experientially immersed, actively engaged, consumers of tourism and many
researchers of the phenomenon appears indistinct in much existing research.
Multi-perspective ethnographies would address Tribes assertion that, the story
that is told will be inevitably skewed by the person or the researcher and their
situatedness. By referring to Foucauldian principles of knowledge production
and management and calling for engagement with contemporary anthropological
practices in tourism, this article offers fresh methodological insight to the field.

Previous use of Ethnographies in Tourism


Concern about inadequate attention to the actual uses of methods, as distinct
from invocation-by-citation of their existence, by some users of ethnography in
tourism research forms the motivation for this study. The significance of the
personal often ignored in practice and ethnographies are, in effect, reified as
representations of generality. In effect, users of tourism ethnographies are overprivileging certain studies by using individual interpretations as infrequently
questioned truths. While users of ethnographies may all know that the
representations within them are highly personal, this is rarely demonstrated in
appraising the operationalisation of method or in making clear the tentative and
contingent qualities of the representations gleaned from the studies used. Our
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concern is thus with the often stand-alone or ill-defined use of ethnographic


methods in tourism discourse, rather than necessarily with their provenance.
Multiple ethnographies undertaken in tourism on the same society or subgrouping to explore alternative interpretations are rarely undertaken. The closest
to such an approach is that of second-order abstraction from the views of
others .

The failure to recognise the essentially personal qualities of ethnographies leads


to a second concern about tourism discourse: namely, that of the failure to mirror
or to critique changes in ethnographic method as articulated by anthropologists
in the wider disciplinary sense. Reference to anthropologists is important, as this
is the discipline in which this method has traditionally been developed.
Ethnographies are rarely contested in tourism research, unlike, for example,
journalistic interpretations. Yet ethnographic discourse in anthropology has
moved away from the Empiricist / Structuralist approach commonly imagined in
tourism. It has transformed into what may be termed the Interpretative / New
Journalism / Poetics approach
and progressively into the Expressivism /
Expressive Perception approach . These phases of transformation are difficult to
map in tourism discourse and, it might be said, have largely bypassed it. These
developments reveal the rigour of ethnography, which is found to be often
lacking in theoretical and applied development within the tourism subject area.

As said above, our first concern is with how ethnographies have actually been
used in tourism discourse. The uses of four well-established methodological
approaches for tourism ethnography were analysed in terms of if, and how, the
foci of the method used was discussed, and if, and how, the operationalisation of
these authors methods was fully articulated by other researchers making use of
them. Summary results are shown below in Table 1.

[Take in Table 1 here]

The results confirm our concern. Method was rarely discussed by the users of
these ethnographies, particularly in terms of detailed accounts of its
implementation. We are not asserting that all users should have discussed the
methods of these ethnographies before citing them when the need is to, for
example, simply cite the precedents of broadly similar studies in analogous
contexts. Nor are we, in this paper, casting doubt on the soundness of the
original ethnographic methods developed and subsequently invoked. The focus
of our concern veers towards claims of use rather than acknowledgment of prior
occurrence. Yet the overall picture presented is far from an evaluative profile,
and in consequence our view is that current attention to method is inadequate.
Indeed, the current profile would imply that the findings of ethnographies are
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being used largely irrespective of how they were derived. Our contention is that
this is a misuse of ethnography which needs to be corrected. Quantitative
methods are commonly contested and their findings qualified by their users. We
are simply asking that ethnographic methods be subject to a like academic
scrutiny. In turn, this may require the authors of tourism ethnographies to
engage in reflection similar to the discourse of mainstream ethnography.

The Development of Ethnography, Personal Sensing and the


Lived Experience
Participation of the knower is central to the interpretive expressive method. The
leading principle of the Vienna Secession was Naked truth and truthful
nakedness . The study of lived experience likewise seeks to bridge the duality of
the observed and the observer and to re-align ethnography with hermeneutic
phenomenology, as interpretive ethnography. It recognises the potential
contributions interpretive ethnography and hermeneutic phenomenology can
make to tourism analysis. Briefly defined, phenomenology is the description of
lived experience, and hermeneutics is the interpretation of experience.
Developments in hermeneutic phenomenology are paralleled in ethnography
with changes from classical to interpretive and critical ethnography. Whereas
interpretive ethnography is interested in interpreting lived experiences, critical
ethnography commonly takes engagement a stage further and challenges power
structures .

Despite its importance, lived experience is a comparatively neglected area of


consumer experience in tourism research . Likewise, personal sensing is a
comparatively neglected method in the subject area, presumably because it
makes no pretence to objectivity. It recognises, instead, the centrality of
subjective reaction and reflexivity, and is a form of exploration and meaningmaking. It is quite literally about relating lived experience. Its input is impression;
its process is engagement with subject matter; and its output is expression.

The validity of the method is in the creative process and in the insights
produced, with reliability important in identifying the contrasting expressions
produced and their linkage to relived experience, rather than in their replication.
It is the plausibility and relevance to the reader of the expression which makes
personal sensing a hermeneutic phenomenological method of value . This is
similar to the emotional authenticity felt in performances . Equally, as with
design, general principles may be abstracted from expressions made by similar
individuals and these principles, however implicit, underpin shared expression.
These are the experiential structures, or themes, which give shape to the
shapeless from everyday lived experiences .

Personal sensing is nothing new, either as method or lived experience. It is how


we function as human beings and how we amass cultural capital appropriate to
our lives. Ethnography seeks to use like methods to describe a group or culture
through sensing and reflection while submersed in a local community. This is
essentially a long term form of immersion which not only affects the research
outcomes but also the researcher . Its intention is to show how social action in
one world can be understood from the perspective of another culture. This is
what cultural tourists also commonly do. The parallel may be taken further.
Ethnographers seek natural as opposed to contrived or experimental contexts,
although these now include mediated or cinematised environments as the real
world is no longer the only referent for analysis, if it ever was so . Serious
cultural tourists, likewise, commonly seek natural contexts as authentic.

Expressive Phenomenology and the Need for MultiEthnographies


Contemporary ethnography is as much about interpretation as it is about
description . Like hermeneutical phenomenologists, ethnographers practice is,
now, to reflect explicitly on lived experience, and not simply to describe it. It can
also become a discourse of emotions, with ethnographers contesting how far it is
possible to keep personal emotions out of analysis and representation . As such,
it is a method about representing multi-vocal and parallel discourses in which
stability and firm representation is challenged. Multi-perspective epistemology
and multiple standpoints contest the privileging of any single ethnographers
representation. Ethnography is thus an impressionistic but also reflexive method,
flexible in techniques, and is an approach rather than a set of specific
procedures.

Serious cultural tourists are similarly flexible, being practiced at what they are
doing . Other than in the comparative transience of their stay at a place,
serious cultural tourists may, in effect, be thought of as ethnographers. Much
depends on the reflexivity and seriousness of engagement ascribed to cultural
tourists and the impact of their shortness of stays on how far this ethnographic
metaphor is appropriate. If it is, cultural tourists may be used as such to form a
basis of shared expression for academic analysis. For cultural tourists located in
Pine and Gilmores educational quadrant, absorption and engagement are
foremost, and these are the true ethnographers among tourists.

Expressive phenomenology has also been recently introduced into tourism as a


form of hermeneutic phenomenology. It sought to recognise the inevitability of
converting impressions into expressions. Unlike sociological impressionism, it
seeks to connect beyond the level of feelings, and seeks to get beyond emotions
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to what is felt (presences) in the context of these emotions. It seeks to grasp and
portray presences as a pre-analytical primordial form of knowing before what
Davies calls the analgesic effect of historical illusio modifies, through expressive
representation, that fleeting aesthetic immediacy.

A useful metaphor for the approach is the early twentieth century European
Expressionism artistic genre . The artistic genre sought to primitivise the
representation of urban society, emphasising passion, spontaneity and vitality in
an intensity of expression . As a form of ethnography, expressionism commonly
uses narrative as a medium, recognising narrative to be an active reconstruction
of events and significances, tied together through time by the narrator as a plot,
like artist as painter.

Expressive phenomenology also focuses on explicitly past experiences rather


than current experiences, as illustrated in the latest use of expressive
phenomenology in Netnography (after Ethnography), interpreting blogs as
narratives, thus post hoc and written to a reflective plot. In expressive
phenomenology the creative process of creating expressions is seen as desirable
in this method. In expressive phenomenology the use of narrative is thus not an
attempt to recapture the former meaning of an experience as it was first
experienced, but is a rearranging of experience in a way that creates possibilities
for new meaning to emerge or for the authentication of the original meaning. We
acknowledge however, that this rearranging of experience cannot take place
outside of the discursive frames within which researchers themselves operate.
This brings with it the need for an additional layer of subjective reflexivity to be
stated by researchers: a point we will return to. Another important difference
between expressive phenomenology and sociological impressionism is that the
former has used narratives produced by someone other than the researcher,
rather than by the researchers themselves. However, if interpreted as a form of
hermeneutic phenomenology, expressive phenomenology offers a working
method for researchers also to convert their own experiences into expressions.

As in all hermeneutical analysis, the task becomes that of interpreting pattern to


make details meaningful. Central to hermeneutics is its circular or spiralling
method: the meaning of the part can only be understood if it is related to the
whole; and the meaning of the whole only through its parts, and the repeated
progression through this. What is interpreted is not fact or data, but text made
up of meaningful signs, requiring identification and contextualisation.
Contextualisation includes new contexts from other fields of knowledge and recontextualisation through a dialogue with a text. This dialogue requires entering
the text, with dialectic between familiarity and distance, and a dialogue with the
imagined reader of the interpretation.

Hermeneutics commonly recognises the importance of insight and intuition. That


is, that knowledge is not acquired through reasoning but instead is gained in an
instant flash. It is the authors belief that hermeneutical spiralling can be used to
operationalise expressive phenomenology as a method for articulating selfexpression as well as understanding the expressions of others by crossassociation with shared subjectivity and discourse. All of these processes can
apply to so-called my-stories and self-narratives as they can to the texts of
others. Indeed, hermeneutical practice includes starting with personal
experiences as both accessible and orientating . Self-narrative analysis thus
provides one means of starting engagement with seeking meanings in
experiences. This is, we suggest, a self-conscious manifestation of what Said has
called the designed interplay between speech and reception where experience
rendered into text finds its worldly place and discursive utility.

Personal sensing has not been totally ignored in tourism. For example, Lynch
used what he termed sociological impressionism as a method. This is a method
concerned with subjective experience, the spiritual and the emotional self. It
focuses on the intangibles that arise from experience, and attempts to capture a
stream-of-consciousness, and therefore to represent the uniqueness of subjective
experience. Lynch
concentrated on immediate perceptions that acquire
permanency and on impressions which were as near spontaneous as
circumstances permitted. The method seems to be a less formal application of
Descriptive Experience Sampling (DES) which has been used in psychology for
twenty years . In the latter method, experiences are recorded by subjects at set
times. Like DES, sociological impressionism requires researchers to focus on
analysing their own experiences. As such, sociological impressionism is a method
of personal sensing, but not one undertaken at fixed intervals, rather recorded on
an opportunist and situational basis.

The difficulty with sociological impressionism is that it has so far focused only on
the expressions of a single individual, rather than seeking shared expressions. It
is unclear how impressions can be any more than a diary or set of notes
produced at the moment of impression, and whether these notes are an accurate
representation of introspection. DES has attracted like concerns. Further, once
written up as an academic paper the author, in effect, converts impressions into
expressions, but without a formal method to record the processing of the
information.

Discourse in hermeneutic phenomenology and interpretive ethnography would


further contest the ability of a researcher to report impressions rather than
expressions of discourse. This is because the transcription of feelings and
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emotions itself simplifies and interprets these into words. All recollections of
experiences, reflections on experiences, descriptions of experiences, or
transcribed conversations about experiences are already transformations of
those experiences . And likewise, Our data are constructed through our
memories of happenings and memories of our informants . Statements such as
these reflect the engagement qualitative methods foster in their users, and that
memory can be reformed given that it is simultaneously situational and
temporal.

Philosophical Associations and Subjective Reflexivity


It would be an abrogation of intellectual responsibility if we did not acknowledge
that our concerns are manifestations of a philosophical problem of longstanding:
that of the anxiety producing dialectic between individual and collective
subjectivities. Our response is not to argue for a refinement of method within
the tradition of individual tourism ethnographies, allowing for more rigorously
derived and empirically sound outcomes. Rather, we argue for attention to be
paid to the possibility for individual subjects forms of knowing within the wider
discursive formations they inhabit. This requires the systematic collation of
multiple ethnographically derived representations drawn from circumstances as
similar and controllable as the unpredictable nature of research in the social and
cultural world may allow.

We may begin to consider this in relation to our iteration of the notion that the
temporal discontinuity between researchers textual expression of direct
experience in the field can only ever be representations. Time and translation
into textual form mean that expression is not identical with the immediate
impression it claims to represent. This is not simply a matter of time and
techniques or indeed the deployment of stylistic self-authenticating strategies
necessary to comply with the collective verification processes leading to
academic publication . Rather, as Bowie explains, it is a function of the Kantian
notion of an individuals encounter with endless particularity which is then
synthesised within, and enunciated upon, the framework of her or his
subjectivity. As Bowie (1990) goes on to explain, for Kant, it is clear that we can
only know the world as it appears to us via the constitutive categories of
subjectivity, which synthesise sense data. The world as an object of truth is
located in the structure of the consciousness we have of it. Nor, as Bowie
continues (1990, p. 246), relating the implications of Kants notions with later
Niestzchian ideas, these syntheses of individual aesthetic impressions within
expressive frameworks are best explained by their utility for the subjects
purposes rather than their efficacy as representations of truth in any pristine
sense.

We must acknowledge, therefore, that representations proceeding from


expressive phenomenology emerge as power over, not unity with, or synthesis
of, the object . These purposes of the subject, being socially constructed, must
be located within the socio-historical conditions peculiar to them. To do otherwise
would be to return to the notion, just rejected, of the autonomy and transparency
of representations as identical with the individual enunciating subject. Foucault
explains that by contrasting the Cartesian notion of the unique but universal and
unhistoric subject with Kants questioning of what constitutes knowledge at a
particular historical moment, one may proceed to the inevitable extension of that
enquiry to the historical contingency of the subjects (e.g. Man) who create
knowledge forms. What Foucault was concerned with was not the subject in any
autonomous sense, but the historical conditions in real or imagined terms that
maintained the availability of subject positions as both subjects and objects of
particular structures of knowledge. This may lead to an emphasis on the
conditions under which objects of knowledge are determined as such.

In this, initial parallels may be drawn with the work of Althusser who maintained
that the category of the subject is only constitutive of ideology insofar as all
ideology has the function (which defines it) of constituting concrete individuals
as subjects. However, whereas as Jones points out, Althussers notion of
interpellation and Foucaults of subjectification are closely related, they diverged
on whether these took place within, respectively, an over-determined structure of
Marxist historical materialism or a decentred totality. The extent to which the two
thinkers may be used in tandem is, therefore, not so much one of direct
succession but rather one of the creation of the possibility for the critical
development of aspects of Althusserian thought by Foucault. What can be said is
that Foucault rejected the Enlightenment idea that the subject-object relationship
could proceed from anything transcending contingent, ephemeral historical
experience.

Habermas meanwhile, was a trenchant critic of Foucaults refusal to temper his


critique of the Enlightenment with a commitment to maintaining a commitment
to it as, nonetheless, the fundamental basis from which conceptions of
reasonable exchanges of meaning must proceed. Rorty is useful in outlining the
point of initial convergence and subsequent divergence between the two. While
both accepted the Nietzchean rejection of the centrality of the unmediated
subject in traditional rationalism, Habermas maintained that an inter-subjective
philosophy of communicative reason could be drawn out of a critical reappraisal
of the Enlightenment. On the other hand, Rorty highlights Foucaults caution
that such a society constructed on such principles might restrict the possibilities
for
self-creation, for private projects ... like Habermas ... he [Foucault]
accepts [the] view that the self is a creation of society [but is unprepared

to] admit that the selves shaped by modern liberal societies are better
than the selves earlier societies created.
An understanding of the subject positions that generate and, indeed, themselves
become objects of knowledge is central to Foucauldian thought in the grand
histories of systems of epistemology he undertook. Our undertaking in this
article is, clearly, far more modest in terms of theoretical and contextual
application but is framed within broadly similar concerns.

The Need for Double-Reflexivity in Ethnographic Research


Our call is for a double-reflexivity in ethnographic research in tourism that
accepts both the specific situational nature of individual studies and the wider,
historically determined, discursive frames within which forms of individual
expression may occur. Pasquino calls this the problematisation of subjectivity in
which consideration may move from the subject as not merely the given or
presupposed instance of inquiry, but as its object. This is what Foucault means
by Man being both subject and object of knowledge about itself; a situation that
the author argues is not metaphysically, but historically, determined. This is
certainly an unresolved problem but not one that can be avoided in the type of
research we are critiquing here. How, Foucault asks, can the world which is
given as the object of knowledge at the same time be the site where the self
as ethical subject of truth appears and is experienced? This is not, we
emphasise, a call to choose between one and the other but rather for constant
reflection on and acknowledgment of this duality in ethnographic research
where, after all, the researcher is so intimately embedded in empirical and
subjective terms.

Our view is that ethnography requires the far reaching participation of the
knower, and is thus simultaneously personal and expressive. At the outset we
identified two concerns. The first concern was with the inappropriate use of
ethnography in tourism discourse in which the personal quality of the
ethnographic account as representation is unacknowledged. Our second,
associated, concern was with that of the failure to mirror or to critique changes in
ethnographic method as articulated by anthropologists, namely in the move
towards interpretive-expressive anthropology. Following the analysis of the
tourism ethnographies in this study it is apparent that there is clear dissonance
between the state of the art in terms of ethnographic research in anthropology
and current articulation of that discipline in the contextual domain of tourism
research.

Tourism research would benefit from a conscious departure from methodologies


that seem to celebrate myopic and introverted impressionist ethnographies.
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Beyond this, recognition of multi-dimensional perspectives that encompass


subjective, personal expressions and more objectively posited expressions must
be made to illustrate the richness of ethnographic research. This recognition
could lead to a greater breadth of multi-ethnographic research with a tourismspecific focus. In doing this, work that is worthy of the current developments in
anthropological research can emerge and contribute simultaneously to the body
of ethnographic research in tourism and, more widely, to anthropological enquiry.
It is hoped that this will address the aforementioned philosophical narrowness
within tourism discourse and encourage innovative ways of thinking.

Ultimately what is expressed as ethnographic tourism research is highly personal


and thus potentially both diverse and multi-dimensional. We must stop paying
only lip service to this and, importantly, confront what it means for how we
represent what consumers and researchers, alike, express in tourism. This means
that we should develop multi-ethnographies to enable us to identify what is
generic to knowers, and what is particular to each knower. Otherwise, our
progressive knowing will be a haphazard collection of representations of
successive single knowers and not fulfil its collective potential in both the
development of methodological theory and its articulation in associated areas of
commercial application.

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Table 1: Uses of Tourism Ethnographies


Crang (1996)
Number of
30
papers analysed
using the
ethnography
Number of
2
papers using the
ethnography
discussing foci
of method
Number of
0
papers using the
ethnography
discussing the
operationalisatio
n of method
Papers citing the Altjevic (2000);
Ateljevic & Doorne
ethnographies (2002); Ari & Mittelberg

Smith (1998) Srensen


(2003)
14
28

Palmer
(2005)
8

Noy (2004); Ooi


(2004);
Richards & Wilson
(2004a);
Richards & Wilson,
(2004b);
Hardy (2005); Hottola
(2005); Howard
(2005); Noy (2005);
Simpson (2005);
Uriely & Belhassen
(2005);
OReilly (2006); Teo &
Leong 2006);
Adkins & Grant
(2007);
Brenner & Fricke
(2007);
Howard (2007);
Lozanski & Beres
(2007);
Caruana, Crane, &
Fitchett (2008);
Noy(2008).
Kwan, Eagles, &
Gebhardt (2008);
Wilson & Richards
(2008);
Cohen (2010); Huang
& Hsu (2010);
Bagnoli (2009);
Huang & Hsu (2009);
Allon & Anderson
(2010);
Musa & Thirumoorthi
(2010);
Pansiri (2009);
Barnick (2010)

Ballesteros &
Ramirez (2007);
Hertzman (2008);
McCabe (2005);
Prentice &
Andersen (2007);
Weaver (2008);
Winter & Gallon
(2008); Broomhall
& Spinks (2009);
Nina & McCain
(2009)

Bigley, Lee, Chon, &


Yoon (2010);
Weaver (2000);
(2008); Brenholdt,
Aramberri (2004);
Haldrup, & Larsen (2008); Seaton & Lennon
Breathnach (2006);
(2004); Burns
Butler (2004);
(2004); Iles (2006);
Carnegie & McCabe
Lee (2006); Wanhill
(2008);
(2006); Bianchi
Caton & Santos (2007);
(2006); Knox (2006);
Chronis & Hampton
Wight (2006);
(2008);
Giordano & Nolan
Crang (1999);
(2007);
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Rittichainuwat,
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Halewood & Hannam
Sather-Wagstaff
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Hashimoto & Telfer
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Hede and Thyne (2010);
Hertzman (2008);
Hunt (2004; 2008);
Holloway (2010);
Johanson and Olsen
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Kim (2010); Krsbacher &
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Milne & Ateljevic (2001);
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