Bibliopolitics: The History of Notation and the Birth of the Citational Academic Subject

  • Matthew Sharpe
  • Kirk Turner
Keywords: bibliometrics, neoliberalism, biopower, notation, metric power


The paper builds upon a growing body of critical research on the proliferating use of bibliometrics as a means to evaluate academic research, but brings to it a specifically Foucauldian, genealogical approach. The paper has three parts. Part 1 situates bibliometrics as a new technology of neoliberal, biopolitical governmentality, alongside the host of other ‘metrics’ (led by biometrics) that have emerged in the last two decades. Part 2 analyses bibliometrics’ antecedents in prior notational practices in the Western heritage, highlighting how forms of noting have almost always had political valences tied to projects of control or subversion. Part 3 then delineates the specific features of bibliometrics as a new form of notation, highlighting the latest forms of academic subjectivity bibliometrics suppose and increasingly are summoning into being.

Author Biographies

Matthew Sharpe
Author infoMatthew Sharpe, PhDAssociate ProfessorFaculty of Arts and EducationDeakin
Kirk Turner
Kirk TurnerPhD candidateFaculty of Arts and EducationDeakin


“Poor Citation Practices Are a Form of Academic Self-Harm in the Humanities and Social Sciences,”,, accessed October 2017.

Bacon, Francis, “Advice to the Earl of Rutland on his Travels,” “Advice to Fulke Greville on his Studies,” and “A Letter and Discourse to Sir Henry Savile Touching Helps for the Intellectual Powers” in Francis Bacon: The Major Works, ed. Brian Vickers, 69–80, 102–106, 114–119. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Baneyx, Audrey, “‘Publish or Perish’ as Citation Metrics Used to Analyze Scientific Output in the Humanities: International Case Studies in Economics, Geography, Social Sciences, Philosophy, and History,” Archivum Immunologiae et Therapiae Experimentalis 56 (2008), 363–371.

Bayle, Pierre, “David” [1697], in Historical and Critical Dictionary: Selections, ed. Richard H. Popkin, 45–63. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing, 1991.

Beer, David, Metric Power. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

Blackman, Lisa, “Social Media and the Politics of Small Data: Post-Publication Peer Review and Academic Value,” Theory, Culture & Society 33:4 (2016), 3–26.

Borgman, Christine L., “Editor’s Introduction,” in Scholarly Communications and Bibliometrics, ed. Christine L. Borgman, 10–27. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1990.

Brembs, Björn, Katherine Button and Marcus Munafò, “Deep Impact: Unintended Consequences of Journal Rank,” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 24 June 2013.

Burchell, Graham, “Liberal Government and Techniques of the Self,” in Foucault and Political Reason, eds. Andrew Barry, Thomas Osborne and Nikolas Rose, 19–36. London: UCL Press, 1996.

Burchell, Stuart, Colin Clubb, Anthony Hopwood, John Hughes and Janin Nahapiet, “The Roles of Accounting in Organizations and Society,” Accounting, Organizations and Society 5:1 (1980), 5–21.

Burrows, Roger, “Living with the H-Index,” The Sociological Review 60:2 (2012), 355–372.

Connors, Robert J., “The Rhetoric of Citation Systems, Part I: The Development of Annotation Structures from the Renaissance to 1900,” Rhetoric Review 17:1 (Autumn 1998), 6–48.

Connors, Robert J., “The Rhetoric of Citation Systems, Part II: Competing Epistemic Values,” Rhetoric Review 17: 2 (Spring 1999), 219–245.

Crawford, Kate, Jessa Lingel and Tero Karppi, “Our Metrics, Ourselves: A Hundred Years of Selftracking from the Weight Scale to the Wrist Wearable Device,” European Journal of Cultural Studies 18:4/5 (2015), 479–496.

Dean, Mitchell, Governmentality: Power and Rule in Modern Society. London: Sage, 1999.

Durant, Will and Ariel Durant, The Age of Voltaire. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1968.

Engel, William E., “Aphorism, Anecdote, and Anamnesis in Montaigne and Bacon,” Montaigne Studies 1:1 (1989), 158–176.

Foucault, Michel, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison [1975]. London: Vintage, 1995.

Foucault, Michel, “Self Writing” [1994] in Ethics, Subjectivity, and Truth: The Essential Works of Michel Foucault, 1954–1984, Vol. 1, ed. Paul Rabinow, 207–222. New York, NY: The New Press, 1997.

Foucault, Michel, The Will to Knowledge: The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1 [1976]. London: Penguin, 1998.

Foucault, Michel, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978–1979 [2004]. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

Frank, Thomas, One Market Under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism and the End of Economic Democracy. London: Vintage, 2002.

Frodeman, Robert and Adam Briggle, Socrates Tenured: The Institutions of 21st-Century Philosophy. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.

Grafton, Anthony, The Footnote: A Curious History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.

Hadot, Pierre, The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius [1992]. Harvard, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.

Hall, Gary, “#Mysubjectivation,” New Formations: A Journal of Culture/Theory/Politics 79 (2013), 83–102.

Harzing, Anne-Wil, “Citation Analysis Across Disciplines: The Impact of Different Data Sources and Citation Metrics,” Research in International Management,, accessed October 2017.

Hauptman, Robert, Documentation: A History and Critique of Attribution, Commentary, Glosses, Marginalia, Notes, Bibliographies, Works-Cited Lists, and Citation Indexing and Analysis. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2008.

Hicks, Diana, Paul Wouters, Ludo Waltman, Sarah de Rijcke and Ismael Rafols, “Bibliometrics: The Leiden Manifesto for Research Metrics,” Nature 520:7548 (22 April 2015), 429–431.

Hoskin, Keith W. and Richard H. Macve, “Accounting and the Examination: A Genealogy of Disciplinary Power,” Accounting Organizations and Society 11:2 (1986), 105–136.

Jones, Phil, “Altmetrics and Research Assessment: How Not to Let History Repeat Itself,” The Scholarly Kitchen, 1 September 2015,, accessed October 2017.

Lane, Julia, “Let’s Make Science Metrics More Scientific,” Nature 464:1267 (25 March 2010), 488–489.

Lemke, Thomas, “‘The Birth of Bio-Politics’: Michel Foucault's Lecture at the Collège de France on Neo-Liberal Governmentality,” Economy and Society 30:2 (2001), 190–207.

Lo, William Y.W., University Rankings: Implications for Higher Education in Taiwan. Singapore: Springer, 2014.

Locke, William, “The Institutionalization of Rankings: Managing Status Anxiety in an Increasingly Marketized Environment,” in University Rankings: Theoretical Basis, Methodology and Impacts on Global Higher Education, eds. Jung C. Shin, Robert K. Toutkoushian and Ulrich Teichler, 201–228. Dordrecht: Springer, 2011.

Macilwain, Colin, “Halt the Avalanche of Performance Metrics,” Nature 500:7462 (14 August 2013), 255.

Moss, Ann, Printed Commonplace-Books and the Structuring of Renaissance Thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Power, Michael, The Audit Society: Rituals of Verification. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Pritchard, Alan, “Statistical Bibliography or Bibliometrics,” Journal of Documentation 25:4 (1969), 348–349.

Pugliese, Joseph, Biometrics: Bodies, Technologies, Biopolitics. London: Routledge, 2010.

Rex, Walter, “Pierre Bayle: The Theology and Politics of the Article on David: Part I,” Bibliothèque d'Humanisme et Renaissance 24:1 (1962), 168–189.

Rose, Nikolas, “Governing ‘Advanced’ Liberal Democracies,” in Foucault and Political Reason, eds. Andrew Barry, Thomas Osborne and Nikolas Rose, 37–64. London: UCL Press, 1996.

van Wesel, Maarten, “Evaluation by Citation: Trends in Publication Behaviour, Evaluation Criteria, and the Striving for High Impact Publications,” Science and Engineering Ethics 22:1 (2016), 199–225.

Weingart, Peter and Sabine Maasen, “Elite Though Rankings – The Emergence of the Enterprising University,” in The Changing Governance of the Sciences: The Advent of Research Evaluation Systems, eds. Richard Whitley and Jochen Gläser, 75–99. Dordrecht: Springer, 2007.

Zeitlin, Jacob, “Commonplaces in Elizabethan Life and Letters,” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 19:1 (January 1920), 47–65.

Zerby, Chuck, The Devil’s Detail: A History of Footnotes. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2002.

Zureik, Elia and Karen Hindle, “Governance, Security and Technology: The Case of Biometrics,” Studies in Political Economy 73:1 (2004), 113–137.