Sophie White

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 for 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



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 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.
My current project, “Intimate Voices of the African Diaspora Within and Beyond the Atlantic World” foregrounds an exceptional set of source material about slavery in French America: court cases in which enslaved individuals testified and in the process produced riveting autobiographical narratives. Constantly redirecting the court’s focus away from the questions being posed, they instead anchored their responses in their own experiences of diaspora, telling stories that stressed their oral and aural cultures, their moral and religious compass, their interpretations of labor practices and reactions to violence or sexual depredation, and their criteria for initiating or rejecting sexual/affective/family/kinship ties. And in bringing to the fore their intimate worlds, they provided a counter-narrative that rebutted the condition of slavery (for more click here).
Among other grants and awards, I was a recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities for each book project.
I am also preparing an edited volume based on testimony from these court cases, Hearing Slaves Speak in Colonial America: An Edition and Translation of Voices of the Voiceless, and I have co-organized (with Trevor Burnard, University of Melbourne), a conference on Slave Narratives in British and French America, 1700-1848, to take place at the University of Notre Dame’s Global Gateway, Trafalgar Square, London, July 14-15, 2017.  Visit the conference website for additional information and to register.

Slave Narratives Conference Poste








Books & Edited Volumes

  • Intimate Voices of the African Diaspora Within and Beyond the Atlantic World (in progress)
  • Wild Frenchmen and Frenchified Indians: Material Culture and Race in Colonial Louisiana (University of Pennsylvania Press/ McNeil Series in Early American Studies, 2012, reprint 2014)
    Reviewed in: American Historical Review (featured review); American Indian Culture and Research Journal; American Literary History; American Studies; Canadian Journal of American History; Dalhousie French Studies; Ethnohistory; French Studies; Journal of American History; Journal of Illinois History; Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society; Journal of Jesuit Studies; Journal of Southern History; The Historian; Le Journal; Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine; Textile History; The William and Mary Quarterly; The Winterthur Portfolio
  • 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 & Essays


Podcasts & Public History Publications


Recent Courses Taught

  • CSEM 23102  Clothes Make the Man
  • AMST 30126  Captives & Slaves
  • AMST 30143  Fashioning American Identities
  • AMST 30170  Laboring Women in Early America
  • AMST 43137  The Meaning of Things





"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