A new study has called for a concerted effort to cite academics of color and greater diversity to make from the hold of “white heteromasculism” on research. Geographers Carrie Mott (professor at Rutgers University) and Daniel Cockayne (professor at University of Waterloo in Ontario) has identified the reliance on research by white males as a “system of oppression” benefitting “white, male, able-bodied, economically privileged, heterosexual, and cisgendered.” Cisgendered refers people whose gender identity matches their birth sex.
The two academic insist in an article in the journal Gender, Place and Culture that “This important research has drawn direct attention to the continued underrepresentation and marginalization of women, people of color. … To cite narrowly, to only cite white men … or to only cite established scholars, does a disservice not only to researchers and writers who are othered by white heteromasculinism.”
The 22-page paper, “Citation matters: mobilizing the politics of citation toward a practice of ‘conscientious engagement,'” argues that the use of straight white males for support only perpetuates their views and excludes alternative views. They said that their study was motivated by “shared feelings of discomfort, frustration, and anger” over actions of fellow scholars and publication practices in a white male-dominated system of peer review.
Of course, the higher rate of citations of males may reflect the higher numbers of male academics. According to the American Association of Geographers, men make up 62 percent of its members. That is changing but could be a major contributors to the higher citation rate since there are twice as many of males publishing.
Mott identified herself as a “feminist political geographer,” who’s interested in “how resistance movements mobilize to fight against state-sponsored violence and marginalization.”
In fairness to Professors Mott and Cockayne, greater diversity in our faculties have led to valuable work challenging assumptions and perceptions in academic work. It is important to consider the ever-widening body of research in many fields to counter any bias in analysis.
At the risk of seeming self-serving as an academic who is “white, male, able-bodied, economically privileged, heterosexual, and cisgendered,” I find the publication by Mott and Cockayne to be deeply troubling and frankly anti-intellectual. I never consider (and often do not know the race or sexual orientation) of authors cited in my academic work. I am interested in their ideas and the depth of their analysis. That is the great pleasure of working in a field of intellectuals. We are thrilled by ideas, not identities. The article suggests that we should start to employ a type of selection process based on identity and race. That is precisely what so many fought against in academics as we broke down racial and gender barriers.
The suggestion that the value of academic work should now be measured in part by the identity or race or sexual orientation of the author is offensive to our intellectual mission and values. It shows how some academics are now introducing not just speech regulations but discriminatory practices into universities under the guise of diversity values. The touchstone of our academic life is the inherent worth of ideas in their own right. While we all strive for greater diversity of ideas and influences on our campuses, the citation of academic work must remain entirely based on the inherent quality of the underlying research and not the identity of the researcher.
What do you think?