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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 September, 2004, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
US academics study Jackson career
Michael Jackson
It was the first academic meeting to study Jackson's career
Scholars from US universities have gathered in New York for a two-day conference on the life and works of troubled pop star Michael Jackson.

The 18 scholars discussed sexual, racial and artistic aspects of his career at Yale University in the first academic meeting to study him.

"In many ways he is the 20th Century's first black male crossover artist," said professor Seth Clark Silberman.

Other universities have hosted events about Madonna and other stars, he said.

'Great investment'

"He has grown up in front of us, so we have a great investment in him, even though some people today may find his image disturbing," added Mr Silberman, who teaches race and gender at Yale, in New Haven, Connecticut.

The two-day conference avoided details of the court case against the singer in California. He has pleaded not guilty to child molestation and conspiracy charges, and his trial is due to begin in January.

He's contributed to the national discussion of race and gender
Participant Megan Burns
But it did look at how the media looked at the case, and it also studied how allegations of paedophilia have fed into false stereotypes about homosexuality.


Panellists also discussed Jackson's use of plastic surgery and his skin tone change from dark to light - which the singer says is down to a skin condition.

Todd Gray, Jackson's personal photographer for four years, was a speaker at the event.

Panellist Nora Morrison highlighted how Jackson explored racial issues in his music - such as how he breaks up a fight between a black gang and a white gang in the video for Beat It.

Fine art student Megan Burns said she looks at Jackson as "a self-created piece of art".

"He's contributed to the national discussion of race and gender and that is an invaluable topic for us all to discuss."


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