Daniel Williford

Position title: Assistant Professor of History

Email: daniel.williford@wisc.edu

Phone: 608.890.3492

Office: 5113 Mosse Humanities Building
Mailbox: 5038 Mosse Humanities Building
Office Hours: Wednesdays 2:00-4:00pm on Zoom, with the possibility of in-person meetings in 5113 Mosse Humanities Building

Daniel Williford headshot


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.


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

Selected Publications

  • “Experimental Visions of Modern Morocco: Expertise, Popularization, and Everyday Technologies in the Work of ʿAbd al-Salam al-Diyuri,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 54, no. 4 (November 2022): 668–86.
  • “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.

Selected Awards

  • 2023 Institute for Research in the Humanities Resident Fellow
  • 2023 American Institute for Maghrib Studies Research Grant
  • 2021 Fall Research Competition, Office of the Vice Chancellor of Graduate Research and Education
  • 2020 Abbott Payson Usher Prize, Society for the History of Technology
  • 2019 Mellon/American Council of Learned Societies, Dissertation Completion Fellowship
  • 2018 Mullins Prize for Graduate Scholarship, Society for Social Studies of Science
  • 2016 Social Science Research Council, International Dissertation Research Fellowship

History Courses

  • History 201 – The Historian’s Craft: The History of Disaster – Syllabus 2022 (pdf)
  • History 680/690 – Senior Thesis/Honors Thesis Colloquium – Syllabus 2021 (pdf)
  • History Of Science 160 – Engineering Inequality: Technology and Inequity Throughout History – Syllabus 2021 (pdf)
  • History of Science 222 – Technology and Social Change in History: Engineering Inequality – Syllabus 2020 (pdf)
  • History of Science 280 – Histories of Disaster: Environmental and Technological Catastrophes – Syllabus 2020 (pdf)
  • History of Science 350 – Special Topics “Oil and Water: Environment & Technology in the Middle East and North Africa” – Syllabus 2021 (pdf)
  • History of Science 921 – Science from the South – Syllabus 2022 (pdf)