Kathryn Lofton named the Sarai Ribicoff Associate Professor

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Kathryn Lofton, who was recently appointed the Sarai Ribicoff Professor of Religious Studies and American Studies, is a scholar of religion and American culture.

Her five-year term in the post begins on July 1.

Lofton’s research investigates the inseparability of religion and its cultural constructions, as well as the extent to which culture itself is embedded in religious histories. Her first book, “Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon” (2011), uses the example of Oprah Winfrey to explore the formation of religion in modern America. She is currently working on several projects, including a study of sexuality and religion; an analysis of parenting practices in 20th-century America; and a religious history of Bob Dylan.

Her research for these projects also considers the broader questions in the history of religion, including, among others: How do scholars and students determine the history and meanings of religions within the political and social histories of the United States? What are the relationships between consumer activity and religious identity, between sexual and religious practices, between aesthetic decisions and religious ones? Her courses at Yale seek to answer these and other questions through an interdisciplinary use of history, critical theory, social science classification, and cultural studies.

The author of numerous articles, book chapters, reviews, and reference book entries, Lofton also co-edited (with Laurie Maffly-Kipp) “Women’s Work: An Anthology of African-American Women’s Historical Writings from Antebellum America to the Harlem Renaissance.”

Lofton joined the Yale faculty as an assistant professor in 2009 after serving as an associate research scholar at the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University and teaching at Indiana University in Bloomington. She was also a visiting professor at Reed College. A graduate of the University of Chicago, she holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill.

A fellow at the Whitney Humanities Center, Lofton’s honors include Yale’s Poorvu Family Award for Interdisciplinary Teaching and several teaching awards from UNC-Chapel Hill. The History News Network named her one of 100 Top Young Historians in 2010.

With John Lardas Modern, Lofton also edited the experimental web project “Frequencies: a genealogy of spirituality,” a series of reflections on the contemporary study of spirituality.

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