tom bh
#Digital Nomad

Daniel Miller on Citations

I’m back in the academic seat of writing correctly referenced essays. I like writing, but formal academic references just get in the way of good writing. There is no reason why academic texts should not be good writing, and by that I mean, emotionally engaging, personally involving narrative. Who wants to see a bracketed reference (Cleverclogs 2001:23) or a superscript1 when you’re lost in the richness of the author’s world? It’s not big and it’s not clever. Which is not to say you shouldn’t reference someone’s work. See the recent writings of Irish essayist Chris Arthur, or spiritual bestseller Stephen Batchelor for examples of honouring both worlds. They are both extremely well read and provide extensive bibliographies and references in their appendices, yet the body of their texts receive not a single scarring syntax of traditional referencing.

Here’s a provoking quote from Daniel Miller, in his book Stuff, which Amazon describes as ‘a manifesto for the study of material culture’.

Theory, philosophy, modern art, economics and other movements that utilize obscure abstractions can easily degenerate into pretentious obfuscation and become oppressive playgrounds of academic divas and elites used to intimidate as much as impress. Academics, tempted by the promise of an easy and assured claim to cleverness, create vast circulations of obscure and impressive citations. A scattering of names such as Lacan or Deluze and Guattari is usually a good sign of such oppressive conceits. It is only through the subsequent processes of maturing and re-grounding theory in its application to everyday lives and languages that such cleverness becomes transformed into understanding and redirected to a compassionate embrace, rather than an aloof distaste.


‘Cleverclogs’ nor reference number 1 exist, they were used purely as polemic devices.

If you’re interested in finding Miller’s quote for yourself then get his book, Stuff, the one that was published by Polity Press in Cambridge during 2010, and you’ll find it on page 79.