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Evolution of racism in Spanish music textbooks: a real path towards interculturality through images?

María del Mar Bernabé (Didáctica Expresión Musical, Plástica y Corporal, Facultad de Magisterio, Universidad de Valencia, Valencia, Spain)
Vladimir Martinez-Bello (Didáctica Expresión Musical, Plástica y Corporal, Facultad de Magisterio, Universidad de Valencia, Valencia, Spain)

Journal for Multicultural Education

ISSN: 2053-535X

Article publication date: 16 August 2021

Issue publication date: 11 October 2021




An analysis of the images in music education textbooks for primary education has shown how the images do not fully reflect the human diversity present in the classroom and, therefore, continue to perpetuate positions that can lead to racism. The purpose of this paper is the analysis of the images to carried out has demonstrated how little progress has been made in the representation of diversity and how, in the 21st century, stereotypes continue to persist in the representation of cultural diversity.


The quantitative and qualitative data collected after analysing more than 2,600 images have shown that despite the considerable increase in the use of images in music textbooks, typical clichés about what instruments are played in the world and how those who play them are represented are still present.


The results also show how the images reflect the migratory flows experienced in each country. All of this has led to important conclusions, among which the importance of human diversity in images for students to normalise cultural diversity from and with musical educational materials should be highlighted.

Research limitations/implications

The analysis of the 2,686 images showed how the use of the human figure has evolved up to the last educational reform. Firstly, the analysis of images focused on the evolution (year) of the presence of diversity (ethnicity) in the musical groupings represented (orchestra, band, choir, soloist or chamber group), as well as the evolution with respect to the type of instrument represented.

Practical implications

With the aim of analysing the evolution in the representation of diversity in music textbooks, the authors searched the most important publishing houses in Spain. To analyse the evolution of the visual depiction of diversity in music education textbooks in light of legislative and social changes related to race, the authors constructed several variables under the category labelled “Ethnicity”.

Social implications

The images analysed, especially those included under the Organic General Law on the Educational System of 4 October 1990 and the Organic Law 2/2006 on Education of 3 May, tended to pair certain instruments with people with physical characteristics associated with particular ethnic profiles. In terms of musical activities, the main results can be summarised as follows: although the completely homogenous depiction of White Europeans in musical activities has given way to modestly more diverse representation, images of composition are still dominated by this group.


The authors’ analysis has led to the following conclusions, which demonstrate the need to continue the progress seen in the past several decades. The representation of human diversity in music textbooks can be considered a reality, not only in terms of the instruments with which they are represented but also in terms of their representation in other situations depicted in these textbooks. The progressive increase of images in music textbooks reflects the culturally diverse society of the national territory. However, the increase in this representation is not as considerable as might be expected. The typified representation of instruments associated with certain physical characteristics is starting to wane.



Bernabé, M.d.M. and Martinez-Bello, V. (2021), "Evolution of racism in Spanish music textbooks: a real path towards interculturality through images?", Journal for Multicultural Education, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 313-329.



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