Sophie White



Associate Professor of American Studies
Concurrent Associate Professor of Africana Studies
Concurrent Associate Professor of History
Senior Fellow, Program in Gender Studies
Fellow, Nanovic Institute of European Studies

Ph.D., M.A., Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London
M.A., University of Edinburgh

1042 Flanner Hall
University of Notre Dame
Office: (574) 631-6529
Fax: (574) 631-4399

Fall and Spring 2015: On Sabbatical


I am an historian of early America with an interdisciplinary focus on cultural encounters between Europeans, Africans and Native Americans, and a commitment to Atlantic and global research perspectives.
My current project, “Voices of the African Diaspora Within and Beyond the Atlantic World” is grounded in a major archival project, centered on the analysis of an extraordinary body of testimony by enslaved Africans. Working from and beyond the Atlantic world to engage comparatively with the Indian Ocean connections and global dimensions of slavery, this book probes the interplay of enslaved Africans’ verbal and non-verbal forms of resistance. I am currently on sabbatical to work on this project, supported by a 2015 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
My first book, Wild Frenchmen and Frenchified Indians: Material Culture and Race in Colonial Louisiana (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012, reprint 2014), offers a distinctive reading of the contours and chronology of conversion and racialization in French America. Deploying a range of archival, visual, and material evidence, Wild Frenchmen examines perceptions of Indians in French colonial Louisiana and demonstrates that material culture—especially dress—was central to the elaboration of discourses about race. I was also awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities for 2010-11 for work on this book, among other fellowships and awards.

Books & Edited Volumes:

Wild Frenchmen and Frenchified Indians: Material Culture and Race in Colonial Louisiana (University of Pennsylvania Press/ McNeil Series in Early American Studies, 2012)
[Reviewed in: American Historical Review (featured review); American Indian Culture and Research Journal; Canadian Journal of History; Ethnohistory; French Studies; Journal of American History; Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine; Textile History; The William and Mary Quarterly.]
  Voices from the Diaspora Within and Beyond the Atlantic World (in progress)
Guest Editor, special issue of Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture, on “Dress and Gender” Vol. 9, issue 2 (June 2005)

Select Articles & Chapters:


•  “Français créolisés et Amérindiens francisés au pays des Illinois en Haute-Louisiane” in Les Anneaux de la Mémoire/Shackles of Memory, special issue on "Creolisations aux Amériques françaises/Creolizations in the French Americas" (2014)

"Massacre, Mardi Gras, and Torture in Early New Orleans" The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Series, 70:3 (July 2013): 497-538
  • ""Cultures of Consumption in French Colonial Louisiana: Slaves' Informal Economies in an Atlantic Context," in Empires and Intimacies: Louisiana and the Atlantic World, edited by Cecile Vidal (University of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming 2014)
•   Invited essay “Ask the Author: Wild Frenchmen & Frenchified Indians: Material Culture and Race in Colonial Louisiana," (Vol. 13 no. 4, July 2013,)
"To ensure that he not give himself over to the Sauvages: Cleanliness, Frenchification, and Whiteness," Journal of Early American History 2 (July 2012): 111-149
•  “Clothing,” in Trevor Burnard, ed., Oxford Bibliographies in Atlantic History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012
“Geographies of Slave Consumption: French Colonial Louisiana and a World of Things” Winterthur Portfolio 44 (2011): 229-48
“A Baser Commerce: Retailing, Class, and Gender in French Colonial New Orleans,” The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd series, 63:3 (2006), 517-50
“This Gown ... Was Much Admired and Made Many Ladies Jealous”: Fashion and the Forging of Elite Identities in French Colonial Louisiana,” in George Washington’s South, edited by Greg O’Brien and Tamara Harvey (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2004), 86-118
“Wearing three or four handkerchiefs around his neck, and elsewhere about him’: Slaves’ Constructions of Masculinity and Ethnicity in French Colonial New Orleans,” Gender & History 15: 3 (November 2003), 528-49, reprinted in Dialogues of Dispersal: Gender, Sexuality and African Diasporas, ed. by Sandra Gunning, Tera W. Hunter and Michele Mitchell (Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 2004), 132-153
In Press:

•  “A la française:” Femmes Indiennes Amérindiennes et Africaines dans un couvent de la Nouvelle Orleans,” in La Louisiane: Carrefour des cultures, ed. by Jean-Pierre Le Glaunec and Natalie Dessens (Presses Universitaires de Laval, forthcoming 2015)





"Historians dream of writing a book that will give us a new lens to make sense of the past. Sophie White has done that with Wild Frenchmen and Frenchified Indians. Her insistence on finding a way to look at colonial people allows the rest of us to see them with a new clarity that reveals how much we have missed in the contested process that made race in the Atlantic World." - Emily Clark, Tulane University

 "Wild Frenchmen and Frenchified Indians is a brilliant book. With intelligence and precision, White examines a trove of fresh material culture evidence from the Upper Mississippi Valley and advances a new mode of analysis that goes deep into the possible meanings of Frenchness and Indianness, ultimately revealing a much slower timeline than scholars have claimed for the progression of racialized categories that foreclosed the possibility of identity transformation." - Kathleen Brown, University of Pennsylvania

"Drawing on French-language archival sources and an impressively interdisciplinary range of secondary literature, White argues that material culture—clothing and the clothed and groomed body—are central to understanding the complexity of the hybrid cultures of Upper and Lower Louisiana in the eighteenth century. Wild Frenchmen and Frenchified Indians is a wonderfully original contribution to the English-language scholarship." - Ann M. Little, Colorado State University