Regent's halal branding guru awarded rare title of Doctor of Letters

On Thursday 14 November, Regent’s marketing academic, Dr Jonathan Wilson was awarded a Doctor of Letters (DLitt) by the University of Dundee for a compendium of published work stretching over a decade, under the title: “Being Hip and Halal - The Just Balance and the Floating World”.

The first DLitt to be awarded by Dundee in more than a decade, this is Dr Wilson’s second doctorate, with his first from Brunel University London, where he was awarded a PhD in Branding. No stranger to Dundee, Dr Wilson is already an alumnus of the university, graduating with a BSc in Chemistry in 1996 and an MBA in 1998.

Professor Jonathon Wilson awarded Doctor of Letters
Professor Jonathan Wilson awarded rare Doctor of Letters. Photo credit: Chris Scott Photography and University of Dundee

On the inspiration behind his DLitt’s work, Dr Wilson said: ‘Previously, there was a view that halal (Arabic for “permissible” according to Islam) really just lay within the domain of food sciences and religious studies, as it is largely concerned with dietary laws.

‘Increasingly now however, it is seen as a lifestyle choice and identity former in a similar way to the more recent rise in veganism. Therefore, I wanted to explore in more detail what role faith plays in business and consumer choices.

‘I was interested in the meaning and messaging behind halal in our modern, global, post-industrialised, digital landscape today. So alongside covering work from religious texts, legal rulings, and food science, I decided to extend my investigations into business, branding, marketing, popular culture, music, sport, entertainment, tourism, hospitality, fashion, social media influencers, sociopolitics, and race.’

The last DLitt to be awarded from the University of Dundee was more than 15 years ago, as the accolade requires candidates to provide evidence of being an established expert in their relevant field, along with a body of publications. They must also be able to demonstrate original and substantial scholarship over a sustained period - indicative of erudition, insight, innovation, imagination and critical balance, with contributions to humane learning.

Dr Wilson went on to say that: 'The four years or so that I have worked at Regent’s University London as an academic have played an integral part in my scholarly journey. It was my first academic post coming from a career in advertising. I was given the space to grow and received mentorship from some wise industry/academic hybrids.

'Also, my research was enriched by the fact that I came into contact with well-travelled students from so many different countries. I learned so much from our classroom discussions, where all of us were keen to share what’s happening on the ground and to overcome wider stereotypes in society that hold us back. We wanted to make a change, and so my research and this award is also very much a thank-you to these people who have helped me to grow.'

Professor John Rowan, Vice Principal (Research) at the University of Dundee said: 'It gives us genuine pleasure to recognise the significance of Professor Jonathan Wilson’s impact as an academic, business person and public educator.

'He is the embodiment of ‘leading-edge’ in terms of his primary research into business and culture and his reach as an opinion-maker spans a bewildering range from food, ethnicity, religion, travel to Generation-Z.'