University of Wisconsin–Madison

Daniel Grant

Ph.D. Candidate


M.S. Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2015 (Advisor: Bill Cronon) B.A. Politics-Environmental Studies with honors, Whitman College, 2010

Research Areas

19th- and 20th-century environmental history and historical geography of North America; political ecology; cultural geography; western American history; U.S.-Mexico borderlands history; race, ethnicity, and Indigeneity; environmental justice; history and geography as novelistic writing

Current Research

My dissertation examines how the lower Colorado River, in serving as a boundary separating communities of different races and nationalities, shaped belonging and exclusion in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. In the century after the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo drew the modern U.S.-Mexico border, the Colorado River undermined the border's fixity and subverted the authority of both states to discipline borderlands subjects. During this era of flux before dams regulated flows, the river paradoxically fixed territorial boundaries and shifted unpredictably across its floodplain, posing problems of jurisdiction and sovereignty when it no longer adhered to the boundaries it supposedly demarcated. In response, local Indigenous and African-American communities who shared these dynamic boundaries formed alliances and negotiated conflicts among one another, the U.S., and Mexico to remain rooted to their respective territories. Three interwoven case studies focusing on African-American squatters, Yuma Indians, and Cocopah Indians suggest that the river mediated racial belonging and exclusion long before contemporary water crises. Using archival and oral history methods, my dissertation reframes the history of settler colonialism in the borderlands as multiple, not binary. 

Courses Taught

Cartography of Environmental Disasters: Visiting Faculty (Instructor of Record), Middlebury College, Winter Term 2017; The Making of the American Landscape: History/Geog/Env Studies 469, TA, Fall 2016; Global Warming Science and Impacts: Geog/AOS/Env Studies 332, TA, Spring 2016; American Environmental History: History/Geog/Env Studies 460, TA, Spring 2015 & Fall 2015; Resources and People: Geog/Env Studies 139, TA, Fall 2013 & Fall 2014; Introduction to Human Geography: Geog 101, TA, Spring 2014


American Historical Association (AHA); American Society for Environmental History (ASEH); Association of American Geographers (AAG); Western History Association (WHA); UW-Madison Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE); Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE) 

Recent Publications

Grant, Daniel. "Tapping the Past for California's Water Future." Edge Effects. June 23, 2015. 

Grant, Daniel. "The Watering of California's Central Valley." Environment & Society Portal, Arcadia 2015, no. 1. Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society.

Awards and Honors

Mellon/American Council for Learned Societies Dissertation Completion Fellowship 

National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Award

Mellon-Wisconsin Fellowship

National Science Foundation Novel Ecosystems IGERT Fellow

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Honorable Mention

Western History Assocation Graduate Student Prize

Arizona Historical Society Research Grant

Contact Information

Mailing Address:

550 North Park Street

Madison, Wisconsin 53706


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