Daniel Williford

Position title: Assistant Professor of History

Email: daniel.williford@wisc.edu

Address:
Office: 5113 Mosse Humanities Building
Office Hours: TBA

Daniel Williford headshot

Biography

I am a historian of technology with a focus on twentieth-century North Africa and the Middle East. My work examines the links between colonial modernization projects, the construction of racialized technical hierarchies, local forms of political contestation and technological labor, and the remaking of urban environments in the region. My research has been funded through awards from the Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies.

My current book project is a history of colonial construction technologies and their postcolonial afterlives in Morocco. It revolves around the history of concrete construction and its place at the center of colonial and nationalist projects for modernizing the country’s urban environments. Building with concrete enabled colonial experts and officials to experiment with new forms of urban governance based on managing labor and distributing debt. These forms remained in place long after Morocco’s independence in 1956. At the same time, concrete construction constituted a site of contestation—where Moroccan workers brought their skills, knowledge, and interests to bear on the process of remaking the city. This project considers how the technological labor of urban Moroccans became central to debates about the scope and nature of decolonization—from the place of slums in models of development to the role of experts in the postcolonial polity.

My research interests include the history of disaster, infrastructures and the environment, the politics of expertise, financial technologies and the prehistory of neoliberalism, and practices of repair, demolition, and maintenance. I teach courses in the history of technology, environmental history, Science and Technology Studies (STS), and the history of the modern Middle East and North Africa.

Education

Ph.D., History, University of Michigan, 2020
B.A., History; French, Rhodes College 2011

Selected Publications

  • “Seismic Politics: Risk and Reconstruction after the 1960 Earthquake in Agadir, Morocco,” Technology and Culture 58, no. 4 (October 2017): 982-1016. Awarded the Mullins Prize by the Society for Social Studies of Science
  • Review of Sheila Jasanoff and Sang-Hyun Kim, eds., Dreamscapes of Modernity: Sociotechnical Imaginaries and the Fabrication of Power, Technology and Culture 60, no. 4 (October 2019): 1110-1112.

History Courses

  • History of Science 222 – Technology and Social Change in History: Engineering Inequality
  • History of Science 280 – Histories of Disaster: Environmental and Technological Catastrophes