Utrecht University: Vliegenthart Thesis Award 2020 for graduation research on diversity in opera

Via a telephone call on April 29, Liselotte Podda (MA Musicology, 2020) received the Vliegenthart Thesis Award for her Master’s thesis “Negotiating a Sea of White: Whiteness and Diversity in Dutch Opera Practices”. Her thesis, which according to the jury excels in the exemplary balance between theory and practice, was chosen from 25 entries. The Vliegenthart Thesis Award is awarded every year by the Utrecht University Fund. The prize consists of an amount of 2,000 euros, which is free to spend for the winner.
It was a privilege to work on this thesis
Winnaar Liselotte Podda
Liselotte Podda
MA Musicology, 2020 and winner of the Vliegenthart Thesis Award 2020
Diversity at the opera
In her thesis, Podda examines how the diversity and inclusion measures of Dutch National Opera (DNO) between 2017 and 2021 reflect on the whiteness of the organization. To this end, she examined the program, public, personnel, partners and positioning (the “5 Ps”) as areas where the focus of DNO lies. With her thesis she wants to contribute to the discourse on whiteness and institutional racism within the opera domain and Dutch society, and emphasize critical reflection on the role of diversity and inclusion strategies within these contexts.
This thesis combines cultural theory, social criticism and practical research in an exemplary way
Jury Vliegenthart Thesis Award 2020
New insights
According to the jury report, this “beautifully written and clearly structured thesis […] combines in an exemplary way cultural theory, social criticism and practical research into policy in the field of diversity and inclusion in the cultural sector.”In addition, the jury is of the opinion that the thesis provides an insightful example of how critical analysis of the cultural sector can provide new insights into urgent diversity and inclusion issues, and how well-intentioned strategies can cause negative side effects. The winner was pleasantly surprised to receive the award: Podda says it was “a privilege to work on this thesis”. She is happy that she has won the award with precisely this subject.
Award ceremony
In corona time, award ceremonies are different than usual. Jury chairman Prof. Hans Vliegenthart called Liselotte personally and told her that she had won. After that, one of the colleagues from the Utrecht University Fund came to her home with flowers and a check. He met a happy winner. Watch her reaction (in Dutch) here:

Vliegenthart Thesis Award
The Vliegenthart Thesis Award is awarded annually by the Utrecht University Fund and aims to stimulate excellence among graduating students. The prize is traditionally awarded during University Day, the annual “return day”for alumni of our university. Due to corona, this day could not continue this year. Liselotte Podda was surprised by telephone by the jury members, who spoke to her with a wonderful laudation. The prize was established in 2004, on the occasion of the retirement of Prof. Hans Vliegenthart as chairman of the Utrecht University Fund. The prize is awarded in turn to Master’s theses in the disciplines of Humanities, Life Sciences, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences.
The submitted theses are assessed by a jury, which varies in composition, but is under the permanent chairmanship of Prof. J.F.G. Vliegenthart (professor emeritus of Chemistry). The jury of this edition – in the discipline of Humanities: Prof. Dr Ton Hoenselaars (professor of Early Modern English Literature), Dr Joas Wagemakers (Islam and Arabic), Dr Laurien Crump-Gabreëls (History of International Relations) and Dr Dan Hassler – Forest (Media and Culture Studies).