Bio

My name is Jonathan M. Square. I am a writer and historian specializing in fashion and visual culture of the African Diaspora. I have PhD in history from New York University, a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and B.A. from Cornell University. Last academic year, I taught in the history department at the University of Pennsylvania. I am currently a faculty member in the Committee on Degrees in History and Literature at Harvard University.

My current book project — tentatively titled “Sartorial Resistance and the Politics of Redress in the Black Atlantic”— frames sartorial agency among enslaved peoples as a form of resistance and places sumptuary laws within the context of the development of Atlantic capitalism from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. In particular, I am interested in how people of African descent have engaged the nascent fashion system to not only critique and counter ideologies that cast them as inferior, but also to stake a claim in larger political struggles for freedom and equity. I deconstruct the etymology of “text” and “textiles”; when enslaved peoples did not have direct access to revolutionary “texts,” they often used “textiles.” In this way, dress and adornment served as a form of radical self-determination, just as much as texts.