The Yale University Professor of Religious and American Studies thinks outside the box when it comes to religion, and shares why she looks at everything from pop culture and video game communities to celebrities – like Oprah Winfrey and the Kardashians – for ways to talk about what guides moral decision-making in the U.S. Plus, how her background as a “red diaper baby” influenced her approach to American religious and social movements. 


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Kathryn Lofton         

Kathryn Lofton is Lex Hixon Professor of Religious Studies and American Studies, Professor of History and Divinity at Yale University. Professor Lofton has written extensively about religion, capitalism, celebrity, sexuality, and the concept of the secular. Her first book, Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon (2011) uses the example of Oprah Winfrey’s multimedia productions to evaluate the material strategies of contemporary spirituality. Her second book, Consuming Religion (2017) offers a profile of religion and its relationship to consumption through a series of case studies including the Kardashian family and the Goldman Sachs Group. Recent essays have described the role of religion in documentary film, musical theater, and American popular music. At Yale, Professor Lofton has worked to strengthen faculty governance and academic freedom through institutional leadership addressing community ethics, diversity, and inclusion. She currently serves as Dean of Humanities.

About Key Conversations 


Key Conversations with Phi Beta Kappa is a podcast featuring in-depth conversations between Fred Lawrence, Secretary/CEO of Phi Beta Kappa, and Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars. With a new episode released monthly, each podcast invites listeners to take a seat at the table to learn more about the featured Scholar's background, research, and how they have taken their respective paths to where they are now, and where they are headed. 

Since 1956, the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program has been offering undergraduates the opportunity to spend time with some of America's most distinguished scholars. The purpose of the program is to contribute to the intellectual life of the campus by making possible an exchange of ideas between the Visiting Scholars and the resident faculty and students.​

Our Host

Our Host

Frederick M. Lawrence is the 10th Secretary and CEO of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. An accomplished scholar, teacher and attorney, he is one of the nation’s leading experts on civil rights, free expression, and bias crimes. Learn More.

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