Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, History, University of California / Berkeley

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2015
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, University of California / Berkeley
Sailing between Worlds: Cultural Experimentation and Exchange on French Oceanic Voyages, 1664-1789

My research argues that the ship was a distinctive space of cultural experimentation and exchange in the broadening mercantile and imperial networks of the French empire from 1664 to 1789. Following ships as they sailed across Indian and Atlantic Oceans, I examine how the material, social and cultural conditions of life at sea required those aboard ship to re-conceptualize cultural boundaries in ways that differed from those in continental France or its colonies. Remaining attentive to the demographic, cultural and even species diversity aboard ship, I analyze how people on these long oceanic voyages articulated alternative forms of gender relations, religious worship, and understandings of natural order. I build my cultural analysis on a diverse set of printed and archival primary sources. These include travel narratives, ships' logs, correspondence, probate inventories, account books, crew registers and architectural and navigational manuals. Together they describe the conditions and cultural practices of shipboard life. Through a close cultural historical reading of these sources, I aim to uncover the ways in which seafarers used the material conditions of shipboard life to produce new forms of cultural expression. My dissertation uncovers the oceanic voyage as a transformative site of cultural production in the early modern world. Most directly, my study offers a rich cultural history of maritime populations in the early modern period. In the fields of Atlantic and Indian Ocean studies, it demonstrates the central place of the oceanic voyage in the production of transoceanic worlds. By following the oceanic voyage, my research will also connects the cultural history of France to the historiography of the French overseas empire, which remains vastly understudied in Anglophone literature. At its most fundamental level, my project investigates the place of mobility in cultural innovation and exchange.