From the minute Oprah Winfrey became a national television star, fans wondered whether she would ever run for President of the United States. Winfrey herself consistently replied that she had a better pulpit to change the world. The last two years of national politics have led many political and media commentators—and Oprah herself—to reopen this question.
The question is at the heart of this year’s Impact of Religion Lecture, “Oprah 2020: The Problem of Celebrity and Politics in America.” The speaker, Kathryn Lofton, is professor of religious studies, American studies and history at Yale University, where she is also Chair of the Department of Religious Studies and Deputy Dean for Diversity and Faculty Development.
In her lecture, Lofton will discuss Oprah’s role as a moral leader and religious figure within the long history of American presidential politics and ask whether there are good indicators of the advisability of an Oprah run for the presidency in 2020. American presidents become celebrities, but what kinds of celebrities become presidents?
A historian of religion, Lofton has written extensively about capitalism, celebrity, sexuality, and the concept of the secular. Her first book, Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon (University of California Press, 2011), uses Oprah’s multimedia productions to evaluate the material strategies of contemporary spirituality. Lofton is also author of Consuming Religion (University of Chicago Press, 2017) and is editor-at-large for The Immanent Frame. Her writing and speaking combine sophisticated analysis with pop culture and a dynamic, almost addictive use of language.
Lofton will give her Impact of Religion Lecture on Thursday, February 22 at 4:30 p.m. in Daniels Hall, Room 434. All are welcome.