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Kathryn Renton

(Residential Fellow, 2020-21)
Kathryn Renton

Kathryn Renton

Residential Fellow

The Limits of Domestication in a New Agroecological History

Kathryn’s research considers the intersection of animal and environmental issues in the context of early modern empire and colonization. In a book in progress, Empire of the Horse: Breed and Race in the Early Modern Spanish World, she traces the role of the horse in the Spanish empire drawing on research conducted in archives in Spain, Mexico, and Peru related to purity, race, and colonization.

Her current research project aims to interpret natural disasters and climate-related phenomena in the early modern world to understand how cultural and scientific perceptions of the environment change in the aftermath of natural disasters. Animal plagues, loss of crops in harvest and famines, unruly and feral animals, as well as responses to changing average climates or major natural disasters demonstrate the limits of domestication. Special collections at the Linda Hall Library will support her investigation of early modern agricultural practices, not as scientific improvements, but as modifications to ecological systems impacted by natural disasters. In part, this topic emerged from experience working in disaster response and humanitarian aid, first on the ground in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and later supporting emergency relief operations, domestically and internationally.  Kathryn is a Research Assistant for the Director’s Office of the Getty Research Institute, and has taught at UCLA (History, Food Studies) and at Occidental College (Religious Studies, Cultural Studies). Kathryn earned her doctoral degree in 2018 from the UCLA Department of History and her BA in History and Literature from Harvard University in 2005.  She is a co-founder of the Equine History Collective, an organization that supports study of the horse as a lens for trans-regional and interdisciplinary research.