Lofton named FAS dean of the humanities

Kathryn Lofton, professor of religious studies, American studies, history, and divinity, will serve in her post through June 2024.
Kathryn Lofton
Kathryn Lofton

Kathryn Lofton has been appointed to a five-year term as dean of humanities for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) through June 2024, pending formal approval by the Yale Corporation.

Lofton, who has been acting FAS dean of humanities for the 2019-2020 academic year, is professor of religious studies, American studies, history, and divinity. She currently chairs the Department of Religious Studies.

Katie’s leadership of the humanities at Yale comes at a time of transformation and recommitment,” said FAS Dean Tamar Szabó Gendler in an email announcing the appointment. “The opening of the Humanities Quadrangle at 320 York Street this summer, which will bring two-thirds of our humanities departments and programs under a single roof, provides a focal point for conversations about the humanities at Yale and more broadly.”

As dean, Lofton will work with colleagues from within and beyond the division to support and promote individual and collective work in the humanities through the investment of institutional resources. She will continue to oversee all departments and programs in the Division of Humanities, supervising tenure, promotion, and ladder faculty searches, and addressing issues that concern individual departments and the division as a whole. She will also serve as a member of the FAS leadership team, and as a voting member of the committees that oversee the governance of the FAS, including the FAS Steering Committee and the Faculty Resource Committee.

A groundbreaking scholar of religion in American history, Lofton has written extensively about capitalism, popular culture, and the secular. Her earliest scholarly writing examines the history of Protestant modernism and fundamentalism in the United States and the historiography of African American religion. Her first book, “Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon” (2011), contends that religion is a form of a social life observable outside of scriptural traditions and nonprofit organizations. Her second book, “Consuming Religion” (2017), explores the dependent relationship between religion and consumer capitalism through a series of case studies including Herman Miller, Inc., the Kardashian family, and the Goldman Sachs Group.

Lofton has served as an editor-at-large for The Immanent Frame; co-curated (with John Lardas Modern) a collaborative web project on spirituality titled Frequencies; and currently co-edits (also with Modern) Class 200: New Studies in Religion, a book series with the University of Chicago Press.

Lofton earned an A.B. in history and religion and the humanities from the University of Chicago in 2000, and a Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2005. Prior to her arrival at Yale as an assistant professor in 2009, she taught at Reed College, Indiana University, Bloomington, and was a fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University.

A celebrated lecturer and committed mentor of graduate and undergraduate students, she has been recognized at Yale with the 2010 Poorvu Family Award for Interdisciplinary Teaching, the 2013 Sarai Ribicoff Award for the Encouragement of Teaching at Yale College, the 2013 Graduate Mentor Award in the Humanities, and the 2018 Inspiring Yale Award for the Humanities. 

Lofton served as the inaugural deputy dean of diversity and faculty development in the FAS 2016 to 2018; was a member of the first elected class of the FAS Senate; chaired the University-Wide Ad Hoc Committee on Procedures for Resolving Complaints of Faculty Misconduct; and served as chair of LGBT Studies, the Program in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and the Department of Religious Studies.

As all who have met her agree, it is a deep privilege to work with Katie,” said Gendler. “She is brilliant and tireless, ingenious and practical, original and imaginative. She is creative and rigorous and fierce and bold. Her commitment and generosity are boundless. … We are deeply fortunate that she has agreed to continue in this role for an additional four years.”

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