Michael Jackson: King of Academic Literature

Michael Jackson is more to me than a “pop icon,” a phenomenal entertainer, a “poor, tortured soul” or a bizarre and interesting example of eccentricity. I am intrigued and humbled by the fact that he is, what I am fond of describing as, a sociological phenomenon of tremendous proportions.  To say that MJ’s impact on our culture has been, and continues to be, far-reaching, is an understatement. His influence throughout the world will, assuredly, continue to ripple in currents and waves for as long as we can imagine.

I am very excited to learn about the two librarians at Texas Tech University who have released a report for a special issue of The Journal of Pan African Studies. In detailing Michael Jackson’s broad influence in the scholarly community, the researchers found him referenced in psychology, medical, chemistry, mass communications and even engineering journals. They discovered that, “The breadth of Jackson’s influence, beyond his just being a pop icon, is truly astounding. This bibliographic guide to MJ in the scholarly literature just scratches the surface. We do, however, give scholars a place to start exploring the world of the “King of Pop” in academic literature. If nothing else, it illustrates just how pervasive Jackson’s impact is.” The librarians titled their creation, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’: MJ in the Scholarly Literature: A Selected Bibliographic Guide.”


Referring to this bibliographic guide, Newswise posted an article entitled Librarians: Michael Jackson King of Academic Literature.

They described, for instance, how researchers used Jackson to critique the media’s handling of criminal cases. A 911 call made by Jackson prompted an article in Fire Engineering journal, while a British Medical Journal piece written after Jackson’s death discussed ethical issues that arise when a patient is more powerful than the attending physician.

One chemistry professor argued that reframing popular songs such as “Billie Jean” could help students understand difficult chemistry concepts.

“I knew that Jackson permeated pop culture, but academics can be kind of snooty about what they choose to study,” Weiner said. “The fact that someone would take a Michael Jackson song and co-opt it as a means to convey chemistry concepts just shows the pervasiveness of Jackson’s influence.”

Newswise’ message in a nutshell: “Michael Jackson’s influence stretched beyond pop culture into the often dusty halls of academia.”

LISNews, a collaborative blog devoted to current events and news in the world of Library and Information Science, reviewed the library project: “They focused on peer-reviewed or scholarly works with unique Jackson content that might shed light on the way people view larger-than-life celebrities – including one of the most sensational and contentious figures ever to grace the cover of a tabloid.”

An anonymous comment posted to the LISNews site on May 20, 2010 stated, “No surprise at all. What serious scholar wouldn’t study Michael Jackson as the prolific, productive iconic genius that he was. He will stand in the annals of history with all the other extraordinary individuals of the ages and had a great deal in common with them. There will be Michael Jackson scholars and I will be one of them.”

I heartily concur!

One Response to “Michael Jackson: King of Academic Literature”

  1. Dee says:

    This is very interesting. I just went to the LISNews site and checked out the article. Browsed through the list…fascinating. I plan on writing an academic paper in the near future centered around several important aspects of MJ’s life. I’m excited just thinking about it, but first I have to work on my proposed thesis paper. After that, it’s game time!

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