Librarians Prove Michael Jackson Was a Rock Star in Academic Literature

Jackson not only changed music and pop culture, but also the way college professors teach in a multitude of disciplines.

Written by Cory Chandler

A new bibliographic guide to academic literature found the King of Pop referenced in psychology, medical, chemistry and even engineering journals.

A new bibliographic guide to academic literature found the King of Pop referenced in psychology, medical, chemistry and even engineering journals.

No doubt Michael Jackson changed music and pop culture. But the way college professors teach chemistry? What about the fields of engineering and psychology?

A new bibliographic guide to academic literature compiled by two Texas Tech 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.

Read a copy of the article.

“I was surprised by a lot of what I read – I just thought I knew Michael Jackson,” said Hidalgo, also head of access services for the Texas Tech University Library.

Hidalgo and Weiner said they avoided works they deemed sensationalist, saying such literature would defeat the purpose of honest investigation.

Instead, 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.

For instance, 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.”

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