Department of History & School of History, Religions and Philosophies

Dr Kathryn Dyt

Key information

Department of History School of History, Religions and Philosophies British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, 2023-2027
BA (Hons), Monash University, MA, Monash University, PhD, Australian National University

Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address


Kathryn Dyt is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at SOAS.

She is an environmental and cultural historian with a specialism in the history of Vietnam in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her book, The Nature of Kingship and the Nguyễn Weather-World in Nineteenth-Century Vietnam is forthcoming with University of Hawai‘i Press (2024). The book explores the Vietnamese court in the nineteenth century in relation to the powerful, agentive and emotional ‘weather-world’ within which it was immersed. Drawing on newly unearthed sources in Vietnamese, Chinese and French, it seeks to transform understandings of Vietnamese kingship by approaching royal authority and power from an ecological perspective. Ranging across topics such as astronomy, meteorology, divination, rainmaking rituals and imperial poetry, the study reveals how Nguyễn rulers consolidated their positions through displays of superior weather knowledge and reciprocal emotional resonance with the natural world.

Kathryn's current research project, funded by the British Academy, is titled “History from Below: Subterranean Worlds and Power in Vietnam”. The project examines how subterranean worlds have been understood, harnessed and controlled in Vietnam since the early nineteenth century. Through specific case studies spanning two centuries, from the beginning of the Nguyễn dynasty (1802-1945) through French colonialism and communist revolution to the present, the project aims to challenge historical narratives that approach power as a purely socio-cultural pursuit played out on a fixed terrestrial surface. The project will add new layers to established narratives of the past by scrutinising the underground as a site of cultural, economic and supernatural power which Vietnamese dynasties and foreign empires sought to contain and exploit.

Before joining SOAS, Kathryn was a Past & Present Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London. Her PhD thesis, completed at the Australian National University, was awarded the 2018 ASAA (Asian Studies Association of Australia) John Legge Prize for Best Thesis on an Asian Studies Topic. She also holds a Masters degree (research) in History and a BA (Hons) in History and Japanese from Monash University. Kathryn has broad research interests in the history of Asia, religion and ritual, history and memory, phenomenology and anthropology.

Key publications

“Living in an Eggshell: Cosmological Emplacement in Nguyễn Vietnam,1802-1883” in New Earth Histories, edited by Alison Bashford, Adam Bobbette and Emily Kerr (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2023).

“Emperor Tự Đức’s ‘Bad Weather’: Interpreting Natural Disasters in Vietnam, 1847-1883”, in Natural Hazards and Peoples in the Indian Ocean World: Bordering on Danger, ed. by Bankoff, Greg and Joseph Christensen, pp. 169-198 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).

“‘Calling for Wind and Rain’ Rituals: Environment, Emotion and Governance in Nguyễn Vietnam, 1802-1883”, Journal of Vietnamese Studies (2015), 10.2: 1-42.

Blog, Institute of Historical Research: 2021. “Emotional leadership and environmental crises: A view from nineteenth-century Vietnam”, 'Environment & History', Essay No. 11, On History

Contact Kathryn