Kathryn Lofton, a critic of popular culture and historian of religion, will give the keynote address at UNC-Chapel Hill’s 2018 Doctoral Hooding Ceremony. She received both her master’s and doctoral degrees in religious studies from UNC-Chapel Hill.
The Doctoral Hooding Ceremony recognizes graduate students receiving their doctoral degrees and is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. May 12 at the Dean E. Smith Center, 300 Bowles Drive.
Lofton is a professor of religious studies, American studies, history and divinity at Yale University. Within her books – Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon (2011) and Consuming Religion (2017) – she explores the intersection of popular culture, with its emphasis on personal consumption, and spirituality. “I turn to popular and consumer culture as my archives because I want to explore especially the ways that cultural activities or products offer common sites for encounter and judgment,” Lofton writes in Consuming Religion. She has written about spiritual connections to a broad range of popular culture topics, including office furniture, soap, celebrities and corporate culture.
Her next book project examines religious community and American politics through the work of singer-songwriter Bob Dylan.
Lofton has received many awards for excellence in teaching, beginning with several prizes during her time at UNC-Chapel Hill, including the 2004 William Jay Peck Teaching Award for best graduate student teaching in the religious studies department, the 2005 Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching by a Graduate Teaching Assistant and the 2005 Student Undergraduate Teaching and Staff Award. At Yale, she has received the 2010 Poorvu Family Award for Interdisciplinary Teaching, the 2013 Sarai Ribicoff Award for the Encouragement of Teaching at Yale College and the 2013 Graduate Mentor Award in the Humanities.
Lofton is an administrative leader with a commitment to making universities truly inclusive and equitable institutions. She is chair of the religious studies department at Yale and is a past chair of the university’s Program in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and of LGBT studies. In 2016, she was appointed Yale’s inaugural Faculty of Arts and Sciences deputy dean for diversity and faculty development. In Consuming Religion, she connects the work of universities to other institutional spaces in American life, and presses administrators, faculty, staff and students to consider themselves members of ethical communities that require innovation and critical attention to survive.
“Dr. Lofton is creating knowledge that illuminates powerful mechanisms within popular culture,” said Steve Matson, dean of The Graduate School. “Drawing on her distinguished scholarship in religious studies, she is making connections that help us understand the corporate world, consumerism and parenting in novel ways. Her expertise is timely and will be of tremendous interest to Carolina’s graduating doctoral students.”
During the Doctoral Hooding Ceremony, each participating doctoral graduate will be called to the stage to have the hood of the commencement regalia conferred by his or her adviser or dissertation committee chair. The Graduate School will also present the Faculty Awards for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring.
Family and friends, as well as the public, are invited to the ceremony.