This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Mitigating Racial Bias through Music: Opera, Race, and American Political Behavior




Oeding, Noemi

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Political Science

Restriction Status


Restriction Type


Date Available



There is a small, but growing, body of literature exploring the congruence between music, race, and politics. While most of this literature focuses on Black musical forms such as rap and hip hop and their political messaging, some studies have also explored White popular music forms like folk and Americana. Missing from this literature is the impact of classical music forms like opera. Due to its stereotype discomfiting nature and multisensory stimulus, opera should have a magnified mitigating impact on racial bias. Utilizing the Narrative Transport theory, this mixed-method study explores the role Black opera has on mitigating bias. Using semi- structured interviews, this study examines the intent of Black opera performers, Black composers, and opera companies that program these works. Additionally, a survey-based experiment measures the impact of Black operatic performances on White individuals’ perceptions of Black people and on policies that are perceived as benefiting Blacks. The study finds that the focus of the artists is on social, rather than political change. The experiment affirms that Black-themed opera influences social, but not political opinion. Implications and suggestions for future research are also provided.