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Grant number like: FA-55326-10

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Sophie Kirsten White
University of Notre Dame (Notre Dame, IN 46556-4635)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2010 – 6/30/2011

Trading Looks: Dress, Culture, and Racialization in French Louisiana and the Mississippi Valley, 1673-1769

This interdisciplinary book investigates the emergence of proto-biological definitions of race in early America. In focusing on French colonial Louisiana as I chart the shift from a conception of identity as malleable to a proto-racial formulation, my study privileges the question of Frenchification. This formal assimilationist policy had the objective of turning the Indians of French America (but never Africans) into frenchified subjects of France: meaning Catholic, as well as culturally French. My book shows that this transformation hinged on material culture, namely clothing, for colonization in early America was built upon encounters that were mediated by appearance. Thus, while historians have generally framed the construction of race in largely intellectual terms, my book argues that sartorial exchanges were central to the elaboration of colonial discourses about ethnicity, with implications for our understanding of the emergence of proto-racial thinking in early America.