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In this article, we apply autonomic and distributed management principles to wireless access networks. Most interesting is the application of autonomic properties and behaviors including adaptive, aware, and automatic operation in a decentralized setting. In particular, we present a generic and autonomic management architecture for decentralized management of wireless access networks, such as GERAN/UTRAN, E-UTRAN, WiMAX or WLAN. For evaluation purposes, we apply this architecture to the management of a Wireless LAN network, and we evaluate the architecture and some of the autonomic management functions through simulations, a prototype implementation and the setup of a real-world testbed for experimentation with the proposed management approach.