… is the process by which one writer’s language makes copies of itself and disseminates in plagiarized form throughout academic literature.
Since virtually no one reads the small specialized journals and presses that print most academic literature, this copied material – as plagiarists know – goes unnoticed. Gradually, the plagiarized material may itself be plagiarized, und so weiter, and no one is the wiser…
Plagiarogenesis may for some plagiarists happen so often that their entire career may be said to be founded upon the operation.
The easiest place to find deeply rooted multi-generational plagiarism is in the hard sciences, where it’s not uncommon for readers to discover that an entire article about, say, obscure properties of obscure cells, an article perhaps appearing in a somewhat sketchy journal, has been lifted unaltered from another source. The original source, in turn, will include copied graphs and other stolen elements.
But that is the very basement of plagiarogenesis; more common – especially in the more obscure reaches of the humanities – is the (alleged) approach of Mustapha Marrouchi of the University of Nevada Las Vegas (a determined effort to make sense of his methods appears here), in which his favorite writers seem to be quoted without attribution all over his work.
Sometimes things get a bit on the psychotic side, as when Marrouchi apparently plagiarizes autobiographical writing by Edward Said and puts it in his own memoir. (This particular taking also demonstrates the plagiarist’s typical move from high-profile to obscure outlet: Said’s personal experience appeared in the London Review of Books; Marrouchi’s personal experience of Said’s personal experience appears in College English.) More often, it’s garden variety theft, of the sort one of Marrouchi’s favorite plagiarees, Slavoj Zizek, was himself recently found to have committed.
Now that the Chronicle of Higher Ed is making a fuss about Marrouchi, we can anticipate his lines of response. They will, first of all, be many. This charming review of Ward Churchill’s twelve excuses reminds us that the same tireless verbal cocksmanship through which the career plagiarist fathered thousands of illegitimate offspring can be used to generate excuses (the original source was begging for it… the words were just sitting there…) for having done so.
In the particular case of Marrouchi, UD (a veteran observer of plagiarism and plagiarists) would anticipate the following reactions:
1. A lawsuit, or the threat of a lawsuit.
2. A volcanically angry rebuttal which CHE will print and then withdraw when it turns out to be plagiarized.
3. The claim that everyone plagiarizes and Marrouchi’s only being singled out because he’s a man of the left whose powerful critique of imperialism is considered so threatening to the establishment that he had to be silenced.
4. The claim that among people of the left the bogus category “plagiarism” does not exist, since it is founded on reactionary notions of private property.