Researcher highlight: Kathryn Dyt

3 December 2018

Meet Kathryn Dyt, the winner of the 2018 Asian Studies Association of Australia John Legge Prize for the best PhD thesis on an Asian topic.

Congratulations on receiving this accolade! Can you tell us what it means to receive this recognition?

I am thrilled and honoured to receive the Asian Studies Association of Australia prize for the best PhD thesis on an Asian topic. I was incredibly fortunate to have been guided throughout my research by the world-renowned scholars on my supervisory panel: Dr Philip Taylor, Dr Li Tana and Professor David Marr. I chose to tackle an ambitious topic and my research would not have been possible without my supervisory panel's belief in my approach and their unwavering support.

I also benefitted from being awarded the ANU Vice Chancellor's Scholarship for Doctoral Study, which provided me with the necessary resources to carry out detailed archival research in Vietnam and France.

Can you tell us a little about your thesis?

My thesis, 'The Nguyen Weather-World: Environment, Emotion and Governance in Nineteenth-Century Vietnam' is an environmental history of the Nguyen dynasty in Vietnam from 1802 to 1883, prior to French colonial rule.

What I found is that the systems of governance at the Nguyen court have been approached from social and cultural perspectives, but ecological issues have often been overlooked. Through situating the court within its environment, I was able to offer new perspectives on the nature of royal authority and power. I argue that Nguyen governance was an ecological project, rooted in meticulous observation of the weather, land and waters, and phenomena in the sky.

A question at the heart of the thesis is: how did the nineteenth-century Vietnamese court understand and experience the world? Drawing on sources in Vietnamese, Chinese and French, the thesis reveals how the Vietnamese court organised itself in relation to the powerful, agentive and emotional 'weather-world' in which it was immersed.

It shows how the Nguyen weather-world related to the political structures of the court and how kingship was bound up with emotional interaction with the environment.

What are your plans, moving forward?

I am in the process of publishing my PhD thesis as a monograph. I plan to continue researching pre-colonial Vietnamese history and I am currently applying for postdoctoral positions.