Sarah Jones Weicksel

Sarah Jones Weicksel, CSRPC Residential Fellow; Ph.D. Candidate, Dept. of History

CSRPC Residential Fellow; Ph.D. Candidate, Dept. of History

Sarah Jones Weicksel is a Ph.D. Candidate in United States History and a Residential Fellow at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture. She recently held a yearlong fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of American History. Her teaching and research focuses on material culture, race, gender, and the politics of everyday life.

Weicksel’s dissertation project, “The Fabric of War: Clothing, Culture and Violence in the American Civil War Era,” weaves together material, visual, and textual sources to explore the shifting racial and gendered politics of clothing production, consumption, theft, and destruction in American society and culture in the 1860s and 1870s. As people confronted the everyday struggles that accompanied war and the process of emancipation, clothing proved a means of reworking boundaries of belonging—of slavery and freedom, race, gender, and citizenship. Weicksel argues that nineteenth century Americans believed that clothing held a transformative power to alter a person’s inner self through the material object—a belief that was critical to processes of inclusion and exclusion. Addressing both soldiers’ and civilians’ experiences across the United States, her project claims a central place for material culture in the making of modern society at a volatile moment of militarization, emancipation, and federal expansion.

This research draws on sources in more than twenty-five archives and museums and has been possible through the generous support of the Smithsonian Institution, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, the American Antiquarian Society, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Newberry Library, the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan, and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, and the Social Sciences Division at the University of Chicago.  

Weicksel is currently a Teaching Fellow at the Chicago Center for Teaching. During the 2016-17 academic year she will be offering a CSGS-sponsored course, “Gendered Bodies in the Material World,” and a Von Holst Prize course on “A House Divided: The Civil War in American Culture and Everyday Life.” She will also be serving as a Bessie Pierce Prize Preceptor in the Department of History.

She holds an M.A. in American Material Culture from the Winterthur Program at the University of Delaware, an M.A. in History from the University of Chicago, and a B.A. with Distinction in History from Yale University. 

Weicksel’s publications include:

“To Look Like Men of War: Visual Transformation Narratives of African American Union Soldiers,” Translated as: “Quand l’uniforme fait l’homme libre: Les soldats noirs dans la Guerre civile américaine (1861-1865)” in Clio: Femmes, Genre, Histoire, vol. 40, no. 2 (2014): 137-152.                                    

“Armor, Manhood and the Politics of Mortality,” in Astride Two Worlds: Technology and the American Civil War, ed. Barton Hacker (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2016).