Michael Degani

Michael Degani

Assistant Professor

Mergenthaler 458
Wednesdays and Fridays, 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Curriculum Vitae


I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology, broadly focusing on energy use and infrastructure in African cities. I received my PhD in anthropology from Yale University in 2015, during which I was a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellow. I am also the recipient of fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Wenner Gren foundation, and the Fulbright-Hayes foundation. I am currently a Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies (2018).

My book manuscript The City Electric is an ethnography of the municipal power grid in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. As mobile phones, televisions, and refrigerators flood the city, the electricity required to power these devices has become ever less reliable. Two decades of stalled privatization reforms have weakened the national power monopoly, and consumers suffer expense, shortage, and a sluggish bureaucracy. Against this backdrop, I explore how residents devise informal economies of electricity distribution, and analyze their effects on the rhythms and textures of daily life.

At Johns Hopkins, I teach the anthropologies of infrastructures, economic life, and material culture as well African Studies Courses on science, technology, and postcolonial politics. My other interests include the anthropology of the state, design, China/Africa relations, and urban popular culture.

“The Veranda, the Air-Conditioner, and the Power Plant: Race and Electricity in Postsocialist Tanzania.” Afrique Contemporaine, 2018 (forthcoming).

“Shock Humor: Zaniness and the Freedom of Permanent Improvisation in Urban Tanzania.” Cultural Anthropology, 33, no. 3, 2018.

"Disservice Lines.” Chokepoints. Limn, Issue 10. 2018.

The Electric Fan. In “Our Electric Air.” Theorizing the Contemporary, Cultural Anthropology website. 2017.

"Modal Reasoning in Dar es Salaam's Power Network." American Ethnologist, Vol. 44, no. 2, 2017.

"Race and Electricity in Post-Socialist Tanzania.” The Corridor, Cityscapes 2017.

Emergency Power: Time, Ethics and Electricity in Postsocialist Tanzania.” In Culture of Energy: Power, Practices, Technologies, edited by Sarah Strauss, Thomas Love, and Stephanie Strauss, 177-192. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2013.