Citations are a critical component of the academic process. Citations are how we give credit to the sources which influence our work, how we provide support to our ideas, and how we situate our research within the larger intellectual landscape.
Citations are more than just a requirement to complete your assignments. Citations also assign intellectual value, legitimacy, and authority to scholars and their work.
The degree to which a scholar is cited can impact:
Citations are not neutral – there are politics which underly who is cited, and who is not, and therefore who has access to these platforms.
Citation politics refers to the exclusion of, and discrimination against, the work and voices of marginalized communities of scholars. This exclusion can lead to inequities in scholarly citations, or citation gaps.
Some examples include:
These patterns of citation politics highlight the implicit and explicit biases underlying the scholarship that we chose to reproduce and uplift, both on an individual and systemic scale.
As a scholar at any level (even as students) – who you cite matters!
Reflecting on who and what you decide to cite provides the opportunity for you to make conscious choices about how you conduct research, and how your positionality affects your work.
Positionality is “the notion that personal values, views, and location in time and space influence how one understands the world” (Encyclopedia of Geography, 2010, p2258). There are a multitude of identities which inform our positionality, some examples include:
What and who we choose to cite is often a reflection of our positionality. Either intentionally or unintentionally, we tend to seek information and sources that are similar to our own identities. Thus, our experiences, biases, and opinions inform who we consider to be intellectual authorities, and who we choose to cite.
Being mindful of your positionality and critical of the ways it influences your citation practice is important. Without self-awareness and intentional reflection, we risk falling into the pattern of continuing to reproduce sameness, only centering perspectives that already align with our own lived experience, and furthering the effects of repetitive citation politics.
Citation justice is the act of cultivating and maintaining an intentional citation practice which uplifts and centers marginalized authors and voices. Citation justice is more than a checklist - it is an ongoing reflection which requires sustained engagement with the questions of how, why, and what we choose to cite.
Here are some strategies to get you started:
What strategies can you incorporate moving forward, after learning about the power of your citation practice to influence visibility, power, and representation within academia?
Remember, there’s no one right way to practice citation justice – but thinking about it is the first step!
Here are some additional resources to explore which further discuss citation politics, and what to consider when building an ethical citation practice.
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