Decolonizing Attribution

Traditions of Exclusion


  • Jane Anderson New York University
  • Kimberly Christen Washington State University


In this article we provide a structural critique of attribution as it is figured in colonial practices and ongoing settler-colonial logics that form the basis for creating, circulating, and sharing knowledge through research practices, methods, and platforms. Settler colonialism is a tradition, and as such, it has habits. One of these habits is to hide specific tactics and practices in operationalizing dispossession. Attribution is one of these tactics. Attribution functions as a key mechanism within a copyright/author/archive matrix which maintains hierarchies of knowledge production by reducing Indigenous and non-European subjectivity and legitimating the ongoing appropriation of Indigenous cultural material by non-Indigenous authors. The colonial force of attribution and its practices of exclusion are hidden in the stacks and how they are populated; in the rights fields of databases and how they are cited; in archival processes of selection, appraisal, and accessioning; and through efforts to digitize content and collections in order to make them open without acknowledgment and ongoing relationships. We argue that one mode of decolonizing practices for libraries and archives is through remaking, reframing, and refiguring attribution through ongoing Indigenous connections to land and knowledge.






Research Articles: Race and Power in Library and Information Studies