Kathryn Lofton appointed FAS Dean of Humanities

FAS Dean of Humanities Kathryn Lofton
February 17, 2020

Kathryn Lofton has been appointed to a five-year term as FAS Dean of Humanities (through June 2024), pending formal approval by the Yale Corporation. Lofton has played many leadership roles in the FAS. For the 2019-20 academic year, she has been serving as Acting FAS Dean of Humanities and from 2016 to 2018 she served as Deputy Dean of Diversity and Faculty Development in the FAS. She is a Professor of Religious Studies, of American Studies, of History, and of Divinity; and she is currently the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies.

Lofton’s leadership of the humanities at Yale comes at a time of transformation and recommitment. The opening of the Humanities Quadrangle at 320 York Street this summer, which will bring 2/3 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 identify opportunities to support and promote of 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, as well as 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 (FRC).

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), pursues 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. She 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. In her many academic and popular essays, she argues for increased theoretical awareness of method, critical authorship, and scholarship’s relationship to fields and wider histories.

Lofton earned an A.B. in History and Religion and the Humanities from the University of Chicago in 2000, and her PhD 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 by 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. 

Since her tenure in 2013, she has distinguished herself as a leader in the university, focusing on increasing academic excellence through strengthened faculty governance and community ethics. She served as the inaugural Deputy Dean of Diversity and Faculty Development in the FAS; she was a member of the first elected class of the FAS Senate; she chaired the University-Wide Ad Hoc Committee on Procedures for Resolving Complaints of Faculty Misconduct; and she has served as Chair of LGBT Studies, as Chair of the Program in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and as Chair of the Department of Religious Studies.

FAS Dean Tamar Gendler notes: “As all who have met her agree, it is a deep privilege to work with Kathryn Lofton. 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. It is energizing to spend time alongside her. As the grateful beneficiary of her colleagueship, I am delighted that the FAS will continue to be touched by her labors. We are deeply fortunate that she has agreed to continue in this role for an additional four years.

I am grateful that Lofton has agreed to continue her service as FAS Dean of Humanities, and I thank the colleagues on the search advisory committee (listed below) for their work in identifying candidates for this position.”

Dean of Humanities search committee

  • Paul North, Committee Chair: Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures
  • Cécile Fromont: Associate Professor of History of Art
  • Langdon Hammer: Niel Gray, Jr. Professor of English
  • Tina Lu: Colonel John Trumbull Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures; Head of Pauli Murray College
  • Alan Mikhail: Professor of History; Chair of the Department of History
  • Ian Shapiro: Sterling Professor of Political Science
  • John Mangan, Staff: Senior Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences