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Westminster College Professor Co-authors Article on the King of Pop

Posted on Tuesday, August 20, 2013

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - Dr. James C. Rhoads, professor of political science, recently co-authored "The King of Pop: Attitudes Toward Michael Jackson in the Aftermath of His Untimely Death" in The Journal of Human Subjectivity.

Rhoads co-authored the article with Dennis F. Kinsey of Syracuse University. They looked at the subjectivity surrounding the pop superstar in the wake of his death and utilized Q methodology to probe that subjectivity.  Q methodology is a means by which the human subjectivity can be systematically studied - from poetry and public opinion to public administration and strategic planning.

"Recognizing that Jackson had been in the public's eye for nearly 40 years and occupied a special place in the public's consciousness, even in this media-saturated, celebrity-driven culture, we constructed a sample of statements made about Jackson in the days after his death.  Students at three institutions sorted the statements, and we factor-analyzed the results," Rhoads said.

At Westminster, four factors emerged: one saw Jackson in a sympathetic and respectful light; one simply didn't "get" the Jackson phenomenon; one was conflicted, as they wished to honor his musical contributions but suspected he was guilty of child molestation; and one focused on the media coverage of Jackson's life and death.

Further analysis was conducted with the same Q-sample at Kent State University in Ohio, and Syracuse University in New York.  Three of the factors found at Westminster were also discovered at Kent State and Syracuse; only the Westminster factor concerned with the media was not replicated.  In addition, a distinct factor was discovered at Kent State that saw Jackson as "no hero" and seemed to pity him.

Rhoads, who joined the Westminster faculty in 1992, earned an undergraduate degree, master's degree, and Ph.D. from Kent State University. He teaches courses in American politics, political psychology, and popular culture. He has published numerous articles, most of which use Q methodology to explore the subjectivity associated with topics as diverse as political attitudes, sports fandom, and audience reaction to popular film.

Rhoads has made nearly 40 presentations at national and international academic conferences. He is past president of The International Society for the Scientific Study of Subjectivity, and holds membership in other professional organizations. He also serves on the editorial board of the journals Operant Subjectivity: The International Journal of Q Methodology and The Journal of Human Subjectivity.

Contact Rhoads at 724-946-7255 or email for more information.

Dr. James C. Rhoads, professor of political science