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



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 from the African Diaspora Within and Beyond the Atlantic World” is grounded in a major archival study, 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 expression. I am currently on sabbatical to work on this book, supported by a 2015 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities (for more click here).
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

  • Voices from 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




Recent External Awards

  • 2014-15   National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship
  • 9/2015     Slavery, Abolitiion, and Resistance Fellowship, Gilder Lehrman Center, Yale University
  • 2014        Humanities Without Walls (Global Midwest) Andrew Mellon Foundation Grant
  • 2013        Finalist, 2012 Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Book Prize
  • 2010-11   National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship


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