May 20 2010

Michael Jackson: King of Academic Literature and Scholarly Study

Category: Books,Photos,Quotes About MJSeven @ 4:15 am

I’ve mentioned before here that Michael Jackson was an avid reader, owning over 10,000 books in his personal library. His favorite bookstores surely loved to see Michael coming because he typically left with an armload! Since he’s left our world, he’s becoming the subject of scholarly study and academic mention himself, as well he should be, since the man was an artistic genius. It is heartening to know that Michael is referenced in so many academic journals covering such a wide variety of subjects, and that critical scholarly study is being initiated into his genius. This is all an important part of how Michael’s legacy and his astounding influence on our culture will be carried forward through time.


A new bibliographic guide to academic literature compiled by two Texas Tech University librarians shows that Michael Jackson’s influence stretched beyond pop culture into the often dusty halls of academia.

Their list of scholarly papers and peer-reviewed articles, culled from more than 100 databases for a special issue of The Journal of Pan African Studies, found the King of Pop referenced in psychology, medical, chemistry, mass communications and even engineering journals.

Yet Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’: MJ in the Scholarly Literature: A Selected Bibliographic Guide merely scratched the surface of scholarly content related to Jackson, noted Texas Tech Associate Librarians Susan Hidalgo and Rob Weiner. They called the breadth of Jackson’s influence truly astounding.

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Also, scholarly study is being initiated into Micheal’s genius in “Genius Without Borders: Michael Jackson“.

The currents of black musical culture course through the song and dance of Michael Jackson.

Which is why the Center for Black Music Research (CBMR) – based at Columbia College Chicago – will present a major conference on his art, in various downtown Chicago locations, Sept. 23-25.

Genius Without Borders: Michael Jackson” will present scholars, critics and Jackson associates discussing the art, life and times of the King of Pop. All events will be open to the public and most of them will be free. To date, cultural critic Greg Tate, black studies professor Mark Anthony Neal and scholar Daphne Brooks – among others – have been enlisted as guest speakers.

Why organize the event now, so soon after Jackson’s death last June, at age 50?

I noticed immediately after his death last summer that there was a lot of uncritical celebration, which I think was great,” says Monica Hairston, executive director of the CBMR.

But I think that now, several months later, we’re really ready to look at the legacy in a critical way and understand the artistic processes and the genius that was involved in creating this icon.”

We felt it was a good time to open up the opportunity for some serious scholarship to be started.

The event will build on the CBMR’s much-discussed conference of last year, “Genius Without Borders: A Symposium in Honor of the Genius of Ray Charles.” But the Jackson soiree will differ from the Charles event in at least one significant way – musicians will not be playing Jackson’s songs (at the Charles symposium, vocalists and instrumentalists performed Brother Ray classics with the CBMR’s New Black Music Repertory Ensemble).

We realized that even though we had a really successful performance of Ray Charles’ music … so many artists had kind of yoked onto his compositions, and (audiences) had an ear to hear them as standards,” says Hairston.

Whereas people want to hear the Michael Jackson songs as they are.”

They are unique, aural, studio-created works of art. And without those specific studio sounds, I don’t think audiences want to hear them.

I think that will change over time, but it’s all still so new.

Scheduling for “Genius Without Borders: Michael Jackson” has yet to be finalized, but Hairston says that in addition to the already announced guests, individuals who worked with Jackson and knew him personally will also be on hand.

For details, contact the Center for Black Music Research at 312-369-7559.
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{ Thanks to my friends ‘Insanity X’ and ‘Katja Tini’ for these articles! -Seven }

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8 Responses to “Michael Jackson: King of Academic Literature and Scholarly Study”

  1. Justice4MJJ says:

    I cant believe he said “in time that will change”, NO WAY. Dont even call them MJ songs if MJ isn’t singing them exactly as he recorded. There are SO many things that this world has butchered, and I have zero tolerance for ANY tampering with his magic.

  2. Cherry says:

    Thank you so much for posting about a topic like this one, I’m very intersted in the way Michael is seen, described, analyzed and reflected upon in the “scholarly world”, I’m still thinking about where and how I could integrate Michael into my studies. I tried to do that last semester, I wanted to write an essay about him in Written English II but maybe it was still too soon after his death because my teacher said no, this is not academic enough…now, half a year later it apparently is. 🙂

  3. sam says:

    MizT thank you for providing the link sample of the subject of what Reuben Jackson spoke about (“music memory and place”. “Never Can Say Goodbye” is a J5 musical composition that caught my attention and has forever remained as a favorite in my Memory House of Michael Jackson Music. Sounds, music, sensory memory, feelings, imagination, magic, we associate songs with emotions, people, and places we’ve experienced. The interrelationship of these Micheal understood well; he was a Master of it. As Susan notes, to create and achieve a healed world requires us to “tune” our navigation to a higher consciousness. No matter where I am geographically, and listen to Micheal’s tuned voice sing “never can say goodbye” or I hum its chorous over and over, I have no doubt for a moment that I will experience the very same sensations as when I initially heard it nearly 40 years ago. We can stay in the same geographic place to achieve this higher consciousness; it’s making a connection that inspires us.

  4. Susan says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with Jeanne’s comments. It is such a cliche to say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, but I guess that is why it is so true. Did anyone in history ever recognize true greatness when it lived amongst them? When you think of all the renaissance men of the past, none were truly appreciated when they lived. On some level, at least, everyone recognized Michael’s extaordinary talent, but his recognition of hinself as being aware of his purpose here – to be empathetic to people’s needs and to actually fulfill them, was seen as eccentric. To me, he was on a whole other plane of consciousness. Maybe that scared some people; and maybe that’s why they felt he had to be destroyed – that and their god – the almighty dollar.

  5. jeanne says:

    I think that people are still in serious mourning over Michael because they do now realize theyve lost someone very precious and significant to the world . We need to wake up and recognize the genius in each other once again . Too many of us walk around with blinders on . Michael had his eyes wide open all the time . He noticed things you I walk past by . He felt deeply , he loved deeply . Many people are afraid to do that . And many dont understand that kind of love . And unless you have affections for the world as a child does ,, you dont understand this and may label this as immature. I truely understand Michael and I found such light and joy in him wanting to do the things he did like build Neverland which I feel is a shame we allowed this to be stained in the most foul way . I could go on and on but I will conclude by saying I am sorry so very sorry he is gone from us and I am changed forever because of this . Forever . I find that I am more aware of people now , I look into eyes ,, I see creation , and distruction on a more aware level . My senses are keener , because of Michael . Because an angel walked among us in plain sight and gave us messages loud and clear with brillance and melodies that moved through us ,, But we were too numb then to notice our gift . Too busy . Too grown up , ,, Thank god for websites like this , Its time to awaken people, there is huge work to be done HUGE !!

  6. Miz T says:

    I did know about Michael’s library. I didn’t know about the bibliographic guide to scholarly literature… I’m trying to get to the Chicago conference, or at least have someone mail me the materials that were used. I would like to take these classes too. An associate curator from the Smithsonian named Reuben Jackson gave a talk on Michael and his music at my public library (New Carrollton MD branch) a few months ago. I enjoyed it immensely, as he used a lot of Michael’s music to illustrate his point…It didn’t occur to me to tape it (it was a rainy weeknight, so I’m guessing I was somewhat distracted…) and I’m not so technologically advanced, that even if I did know how, I’d know how to put it online as an audio file. Reuben might have some recordings of his talk, if you would like to contact him. I’m sure he’d be glad to hear from you. Thank you for this post, 7. I’m a library technician and have always loved books and reading from a very young age…Your post strikes a very deep chord for me.

  7. Miranda says:

    Wow this is great! I wish there were more classes and events like this in different states so that I could take one! Hopefully in the future there will be college classes just on Michael Jackson, after all there are classes that are taught just on the Beatles.