Williford ’11 Wins National Research Award in History

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The American Historical Association (AHA), the oldest and most prestigious professional organization for historians in the United States, has awarded Daniel Williford ‘11 its top prize for undergraduate research for 2011. Williford and his faculty mentor, Prof. Etty Terem, will be recognized at the upcoming AHA annual meeting in Chicago in January 2012.

Williford’s prize-winning paper, “Colonial Narratives: Visions of Pre-Islamic Algeria in the Revue Africaine, 1870-1896,” examines the impact that the intertwined relationship between knowledge and power had on the production of French colonial scholarship in Algeria during the last decades of the nineteenth century. Based on a close reading of essays and articles published in a French periodical, La Revue Africaine, Williford’s essay focuses the way in which French scholars went about constructing Algeria’s pre-Islamic history. In emphasizing the cultural legacies of the Berbers, Phoenicians, and Romans, these French archaeologists deliberately excluded Arab Muslims from the country’s past, thus portraying them as foreign usurpers. This narrative of Algerian history assisted the French in their attempts to maintain imperial control over the country.

Williford originally wrote the paper for Prof. Terem’s seminar, “Colonial Encounters in North Africa.” At Terem’s urging, Williford submitted the piece to the Rhodes Historical Review, which published it in volume 13 of the journal last spring. The Department of History then nominated the essay for the AHA’s Raymond J. Cunningham Prize, which is given each year for the best article by an undergraduate published in a history department journal. The winning author and the winning journal each receive a $200 prize.

Williford can add the Cunningham Prize to a list of other honors. At last spring’s commencement, the history and French double major received the Peyton Nalle Rhodes Phi Beta Kappa Prize, given to the graduating senior who exemplifies the highest qualities of achievement, creativity and commitment to the liberal arts and sciences. Williford also won the Department of History’s Douglas W. Hatfield Award in 2011, given annually to a senior major for outstanding undergraduate research in history.

A Memphis native, Williford is currently in Paris, where he is participating in a month-long intensive English language teaching certification program. He hopes to spend time teaching English in North Africa before entering a graduate program in history next year.