Politics of Citation


We’ve talked some about how to enter conversations and the “best way” of citing previous work. I’ve made my stance clear in that I value engagement with directly relevant scholarship and do not prefer the vast amount of citation dropping without that engagement. Though, citation dropping does mark the space and show reviewers and readers the big conversations you are entering so there’s a line that comes with practice and experience on when to simply citation drop and when to fully engage.

Then there is the issue of canonical texts and the ongoing disagreement and expansion of what a field or scholars deems is important. Take a look at a blog on guiding questions.

The politics of citation can mean that there is a space to acknowledge past practices (through citation) and then to make your move to other citational practices. This can strengthen your own position by showing an understanding of past (incomplete) conversations as you bring in more diverse and relevant scholarship. This is part of where you have to find your space and voice as a new scholar. There is no right way. Just your way, but it does need to be an informed positionality.

Take for example the footnote from Cana Uluak Itchiuaqiyaq’s chapter in Reprogrammable Rhetoric: Critical Making Theories and Methods in Rhetoric and Composition. (2022). United States: Utah State University Press.

She has an extremely valid point and one each of us needs to consider, while also knowing there are others who would disagree with this stance. The bottom line is that citation practices are tricky–like everything else related to research. As part of your growth as a researcher, you have to find the spot where you feel comfortable with who you cite and how you cite them. Justice is multi-dimensional and contextual.

Following are some different perspectives on citation practices the will at least give you a start in understanding this issue.

citational justice a the new CCCCs statement

Making Feminist Points

Deborah Levy on writing and citing

Scholarship as collaboration

Racial Politics of Citation

Citations matters

chapter 2 from Lockett, A. L., Ruiz, I. D., Sanchez, J. C., & Carter, C. C. (2021). Race, rhetoric, and research methods. 

We should without doubt pay attention to how and whom we cite. There is without doubt a history of citational practices rooted in white supremacy (because research has been rooted in racist and exclusionary practices).

As students, you need to gain an awareness of citing and recognizing nonwhite (and non-male), differently abled, and other under represented groups of scholars. The idea that citation is political also encourages us to come back to bigger questions such as

  • what does it mean to know?
  • what does knowledge do? and for whom? to whom?
  • what is the role of knowledge making and the impact of citations on that?
  • what impact is there when you leave out certain traditions or do not incorporate other traditions?
  • who is being included and excluded in the research?  and what are the stakes of that?