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Staying quiet or rocking the boat? An autoethnography of organisational visual white supremacy

Helena Liu (UTS Business School, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia)
Ekaterina Pechenkina (Swinburne Institute for Social Research, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 18 April 2016




The purpose of this paper is to reflect on critical race theory’s application in organisational visuals research with a focus on forms of visual white supremacy in the workplace.


Drawing on the authors’ personal experiences as racialised “Others” with organisational white supremacy, this paper employs reflective autoethnography to elucidate how whiteness is positioned in the academic workplace through the use of visual imagery. The university, departments and colleagues appearing in this study have been de-identified to ensure their anonymity and protect their privacy.


The authors’ autoethnographic accounts discuss how people of colour are appropriated, commodified and subordinated in the ongoing practice of whiteness.

Research limitations/implications

Illuminating the subtle ways through which white supremacy is embedded in the visual and aesthetic dimensions of the organisation provides a more critical awareness of workplace racism.


This paper advances the critical project of organisational visual studies by interrogating the ways by which white dominance is enacted and reinforced via the everyday visual and aesthetic dimensions of the workplace. An added contribution of this paper is in demonstrating that visual racism extends beyond misrepresentations of people of colour, but can also manifest in what the authors conceptualise as “visual white supremacy”.



The authors would like to thank colleagues for generously providing feedback on previous iterations of the paper. The authors would not have been able to navigate through the white institution without their support.


Liu, H. and Pechenkina, E. (2016), "Staying quiet or rocking the boat? An autoethnography of organisational visual white supremacy", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 35 No. 3, pp. 186-204.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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