On 25 June 2009, the eve of his come-back tour, Michael Jackson (MJ) died, triggering a global outpouring of grief. In the aftermath of Jackson’s passing, ‘Michaeling’ originated, a pilgrimage dedicated to MJ, which allowed fans to cope with their loss and express their dedication.
This project takes ‘Michaeling’ as a case study to investigate how sacred forms are created out of popular culture that are constitutive and formative of meaningful, moral lives. Contrary to persistent characterizations of fans as ‘superficial’, ‘weak’ and without agency, the fandom of MJ-pilgrims is complex: MJ-pilgrims are conscious agents, who actively engage with the artistic and humanitarian legacy of MJ to shape their worldview and cultivate an ethical self.
In this research, I particularly focus on the reflexive power of popular music and the significance of embodied practices, studying pilgrimage and ritual as ‘lived religion’. Present theories on pilgrimage provide a framework to reflect on the pilgrims’ experience and vice versa. Introducing the field of popular fan culture as thé place which leads to day-to-day meaning-making of contemporary people, the study of MJ-pilgrims has the potential to inform broader concepts of religion and the sacred and to complement the understanding of our religious’ present.
|25 July 2023 12.05 p.m.