Religious scholar at the University of Groningen conducted research into ‘Michaeling’
Michael Jackson fans are from all horizons and background. One of them, Fardo Eringa is a student at the University of Groningen in the Neverlands.
The University of Groningen is a public research university of more than 30,000 students in the city of Groningen in the Netherlands. Founded in 1614, the university is one of the most traditional and prestigious in the Netherlands.
Fardo Eringa completed her Master’s degree programme in Religion and the Public Domain with honours in 2015 with her thesis Being a Michael Jackson Pilgrim: dedicated to a never-ending journey about the phenomenon known as ‘Michaeling’. This term refers to the practice of literally following in the footsteps of the King of Pop (who died in 2009), whereby fans make a pilgrimage that brings them closer in spirit to their idol. Fardo Eringa found that some fans actually see Michael Jackson as the new Messiah, ‘sent by God to show people what really matters, namely love. These “disciples” claim that Michael Jackson was persecuted like no other and that he suffered greatly as a result. However, this did not stop him from figh ting for his ideals and for his fans which, in their eyes, makes him a true martyr.’ In January 2016, her original Master’s thesis earned her the IASPM/KVNM Popular Music Thesis Prize.
Her studies are fascinating and her comparison between fandom and religion is nailed with articles, descriptions and studies.
Don’t get her wrong, she is not saying Michael Jackson is a new church order but more comparing the fans’ actions to those practicing a religion and the result is astonishing and open the debate to adoration.
Since 2015, Fardo Eringa has been continuing her research as a PhD student in the Comparative Study of Religion at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, using ‘Michaeling’ as a case study for further research into pilgrimage, identity building and new forms of meaningfulness in the interplay with popular fan culture. In relation to her planned visit to the US, she told, ‘The two grants will make it possible for me to spend the period from March to the end of May 2019 at Rice University in Houston, Texas as a visiting scholar in the field of religion and popular culture, under the guidance of Professors Jeffrey Kripal and Anthony Pinn. This exchange will give me the opportunity to conduct a combined analysis of American and European insights into the emergence of new forms of spirituality and pilgrimage in modern society. Then in June I will carry out fieldwork in Los Angeles during ‘Michael week’ – the week preceding the anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death on 25 June, which was ten years ago this year. All sorts of commemorative activities have been organized, and I will spend two weeks in the company of MJ pilgrims. I will then write a dissertation about what I have learned both during my fieldwork and under the supervision of Kripal and Pinn.’
You can listen to Fardo:
“On 25 June 2009, the eve of his come-back tour, Michael Jackson 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.” – Fardo Eringa Phd
Not only Fardo has done an amazing case studies on the matter but it is also a nice reflexion on our own vision of the fan community. Not to mention that Fardo is a Michael Jackson fan. You can read her full work HERE