The Politics of Citation

One of the feminist practices key to my teaching and research is a feminist practice of citation.

This has been important to how I teach, and how I employ intersectional frameworks in my research. I’ve discussed how works on intersectionality in the context of feminist German studies and German feminisms have often ignored the work of women of color. One emergence of intersectional feminist analysis (even if the term wasn’t used) is clearly in the work of those Afro German feminists through work such as Showing Our Colors (Opitz et al.). Their theorizations of race and gender were also queer: many of the early Afro German activists identified as lesbians, but also worked with an anti-essentialist notion of identity, constructing complex coalitions with people experiencing a range of racializations, thus “queering ethnicity” (El-Tayeb 66–68). In another context, Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodriguez points out that as poststructuralism became popular in German feminist thought, many pointed to US white women and postcolonial feminisms for challenging the category of woman and ignored theorization by women of color (Rodríguez). The work of feminism requires persistent attention to feminist genealogies in order to ensure that white feminists do not replicate the erasure of people of color in feminist theorizing.

Sara Ahmed writes that citation serves as feminist bricks and 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” (Ahmed 17). Acknowledging and establishing feminist genealogies is part of the work of producing more just forms of knowledge and intellectual practice.

Acknowledging my place as a white woman is an important piece of this citational practice. For those of us who are white feminists seeking to produce anti-racist work and practice, it is also important to be cautious of the ever-present danger of appropriating the work of women of color. Citation itself is one guard against that, but not the only one. The “we” of feminist scholarship is a shifting we, consisting of different coalitions at different times, and the forms of power that inflect those coalitions must also be marked and interrogated.

—Beverly Weber, University of Colorado, Boulder

Ahmed, Sara. Living a Feminist Life. Duke University Press Books, 2017.

El-Tayeb, Fatima. European Others: Queering Ethnicity in Postnational Europe. University of Minnesota Press, 2011.

Opitz, May, et al. Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out. University of Massachusetts Press, 1992.

Rodríguez, Encarnación Gutiérrez. “Fallstricke des Feminismus: Das Denken ‘kritischer Differenzen’ ohne geopolitische Kontextualisierung. Einige Überlegungen zur Rezeption antirassistischer und postkolonialer Kritik.” Polylog, no. 4, 1999.

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