Thoughtful citations

Following Making shiFt happen and a meeting of the Higher education scholars last week (summary posts coming soon), I have been thinking about my practices as a higher education researcher, and the ways in which I can evidence my values. Citation practices are one example.

In Living A Feminist Life (2017), Sara Ahmed is explicit about the politics of citation:

In this book, I adopt a strict citation policy: I do not cite any white men. By white men I am referring to an institution … My citation policy has given me more room to attend to those feminists who came before me. Citation is feminist memory. Citation is how we acknowledge our debt to those who came before; those who helped us find our way when the way was obscured because we deviated from the paths we were told to follow. In this book, I cite feminists of color who have contributed to the project of naming and dismantling the institutions of patriarchal whiteness …

I read further on citation practices: a call for “conscientious engagement” as a means of resisting “unethical hierarchies of knowledge” production (Mott and Cockayne, 2017) and an invitation to “a collaborative and potentially intimate and caring practice” for citing trans scholars (Thieme and Saunders, 2018).

In my field, there’s Hart and Metcalfe’s (2010) “Whose Web of Knowledge™ is it Anyway?: Citing feminist research in the field of higher education”. The focus is slightly different: who cites feminist research in higher education? The authors note that Tight’s (2008) analysis of higher education researchers shows “no women … on his list of the 24 most cited higher education authors”. Hart and Metcalfe analyse citations for six feminist journal articles in American higher education journals in the 1990s, finding a greater number of citations from outside the discipline than from within. They conclude:

We wonder if the methods employed by some feminist scholars (auto-ethnography or personal narrative) preclude their publication in “top tier” journals, which give preference to positivist and empirical research? And, what is the influence of feminist work in higher education on students, administrators, and policy makers?… We call for additional research to help us understand who identifies with (and reads and cites) feminist scholars in the field of higher education. As higher education scholars, we are encouraged that work from our field is appreciated in other contexts, but where is the feminist community in higher education?

I read these works after I experimented with thoughtful citation in a recent book chapter, “Academic Writing from the Depths: An autoethnographic and organisational account” in Academic Writing and Identity Constructions edited by Louise Thomas and Anne Reinertsen. (I haven’t yet received my copy, but I am looking forward to reading the other chapters).

I cite women more than men in the chapter—of the 36 references, 10 are by male authors and include works co-authored with women. This may be a methodological influence (autoethnography, guided by the work of French feminist Hélène Cixous on writing), but given the focus of the book, I felt able to experiment with the conventions of academic writing. Here’s an extract:

I adopt a method of ‘thinking through writing’ or ‘writing along the way’—“writing that is intended to sort out what we think, why, and what the implications of a line of thought might be” (Thomson & Kamler, 2010, p. 149). My methodology finds inspiration in the feminist politics of Black, Crimmins and Henderson’s (2017) memory work and the experimental bricolage of Handsforth and Taylor (2016). These collaborative texts demonstrate models for writing differently as a means of navigating academia …

I want to cite another book I read while writing this chapter: Lipton and MacKinlay’s (2017) We Only Talk Feminist Here. Its influence on this chapter is subtle, but crucial. This type of reading alongside academic writing, where a text is not directly cited, is usually not acknowledged. But as part of the process of writing about writing, the impact of intertexts has weight. Lipton and MacKinlay’s (2017) work “tell[s] a different story about the neoliberal university”  from multiple feminist perspectives (p vii). It is a text that demands multiple readings, and I am letting its ideas resonate while I continue to write.

While reading about feminist citation practices, I came across a Citation Practices Challenge that challenges our lack of thought (“Over time, our citation practices become repetitive; we cite the same people we cited as newcomers to a conversation”). I have set myself the challenge of citing feminist, Aboriginal Australians and Asian writers.

This starts with reading—I welcome recommendations for academic texts—and applies to fiction as well. I plan to read the Stella Prize longlist again this year, although I note the panel wished for “more representations of otherness and diversity from publishers; narratives from outside Australia, from and featuring women of colour, LGBTQIA stories, Indigenous stories, more subversion, more difference.” (Whispering Gums has a thoughtful post about this comment).

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