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), 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 awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities for 2010-11, for work on this book, among other fellowships and awards.
I have also published numerous articles on slavery, gender, violence, dress and culture. 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.
Books & Edited Volumes:
Select Articles & Chapters:
- "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)
• “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 2014)
• “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)
"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