Representing Race in Graphs: W.E.B. Du Bois, Corporate Bureaucrats, and Visualization Strategies for Change

  • Luzilda Arciniega


In this paper, I draw together W. E. B. Du Bois and corporate bureaucrats to compare the graphical representation of race across three distinct racial epochs: the Progressive, Civil Rights, and post-1980s neoliberal era. I illustrate how, through visual and rhetorical strategies, corporate bureaucrats extend a Du Boisian legacy in constructing popular knowledge of race and racism. I show how they do this by making whiteness visible through data visualizations and rhetorically bundling them to liberal American values of equal opportunity. In examining them as epistemic and semiotic objects, I argue that graphical representations of race compel the enactment of meaningful strategies seen to challenge racial inequalities in the workplace. Yet, insofar as these are employed to equate racism with the absence of equal opportunity in capitalist firms, I argue, they also mask whiteness and reproduce systemic racism. The graphical representation of race, in effect, reveals how the practices of knowledge production and processes of signification are entangled in everyday corporate bureaucracies. Thus, I suggest that we need to reject analytical binaries that pose a bounded distinction between “business” and “social justice” to extend research into the cultural production and productive enactment of racial materiality.

Author Biography

Luzilda Arciniega

Luzilda Arciniega is an independent scholar and practitioner on diversity and inclusion. She was previously Visiting Assistant Professor at Wayne State University, and an opinion author and co-editor of the Association for Political and Legal Anthropology section in Anthropology News, the American Anthropology Association’s main newsletter.

05 Oct 2021
Original Research Articles