Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Charles Kostelnick


The dissertation offers a critical reading of the visual representation of minority groups in the Statistical Atlases of the United States from 1874 to 1925. Beginning in 1874, six consecutive Statistical Atlases, collections of displays of census data, were published to characterize Americans and their lands. Using a variety of data displays, these atlases envisioned the emerging nation with a diversity of races and ethnicities at the high time of immigration and westward expansion. The visual constructs of the nation's population groups in the Atlases projected a particular reading of these groups in the nation at a particular historical moment. As a powerful public act of visual rhetoric, the Atlases worked to shape Americans' racial and ethnic identity and contributed to the forging of a national identity as a whole.

Although the graphic features and statistical innovations of the Statistical Atlases have long been acknowledged, the rhetorical effects and ideological implications of the Atlases have not received sufficient critical attention. This dissertation extends the existing scholarship on the Atlases by conducting a rhetorical analysis on the representation of minority groups in the Atlases including foreign immigrants in general, Chinese immigrants in specific, and Native Americans. My intention of the study is to shed light on the fabrications of politics and ideologies that play out behind the visual language of data displays.

In the dissertation, I argue that the Statistical Atlases performed a surveillance and disciplinary function on the population in the nation that can be termed "the other" and helped creating a public discourse that supported the state's policy of immigration and westward expansion in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The construction of the minority groups not only reflected and but also reshaped the historical context.


Copyright Owner

Li Li



File Format


File Size

157 pages

Included in

Rhetoric Commons