In the picturesque landscapes of the American West, stories of settlers, colonialism, and Indigenous stories echo through time. Dr. Natasha Varner is a historian and writer focused on creating publicly accessible work exploring the haunting histories of tuberculosis (TB), how those intersect with place and left their mark on the present day west.

As a researcher, Varner’s approach to history blends academic rigor with a commitment to approachable, easily consumable storytelling. She often crosses and blends genres to fit the needs of the story.

Varner is interested in exploring the resonance of haunting narratives in historic sites associated with TB. She believes that exploring ghost stories becomes an interesting lens that blurs past and present, and puts a spotlight on the aspects of history that we remember, and those that we forget. Often the stories of the haunting are passed down and we are more aware of them than the histories they are based upon.

Varner will be an artist in residence at the Pine Meadow Ranch Center for Arts & Agriculture beginning March 12 alongside writer Jen Karetnick and visual artist Mychelle Moritz. At the ranch, Varner is excited to focus her time and attention on the state of Oregon’s unique relationship with settler colonialism and consumption, as TB has been nicknamed in the past. “I think one thing that sets Oregon apart in terms of tuberculosis history is that it had the first state-funded sanatorium on the West Coast. So indigent and poor working-class people with tuberculosis still had access to really good care and that’s different than how a lot of other states in the West managed that,” says Varner.

She is also interested in having time at the ranch to experiment with how A.I. can help her wade through all the data she’s collected during her research. “ I have probably 1000 photos of archival materials that I took during research trips in Salem and Portland. And those, as you can imagine, are very tedious to go through. So I’m wanting to explore using A.I. tools to kind of feed in images and get, you know, transcriptions and summaries of the content.” She says she is cautiously optimistic that A.I. may assist with the most tedious part of her job. “I feel kind of scared of A.I. and also feel like I don’t want this to be the moment that technology passes me by,” says Varner.

On March 14, Varner is hosting a workshop at the Ranch called, “Beyond Land Acknowledgements: Settler Stories, Rematriation, and Reimagining How We Think about Home.” The workshop will focus on themes including: How did we come to be settlers in the places we call home? And how do we begin to grapple with our own settler legacies?

Resident Bio:
Dr. Natasha Varner (She/Her) – Seattle, WA

Dr. Natasha Varner is a writer and historian whose essays have appeared in Electric Literature, The Nation, Atlas Obscura, PRI’s The World, Jacobin, The Abusable Past, and Tropics of Meta. She has a PhD in history and her first book, La Raza Cosmética: Beauty, Identity, and Settler Colonialism in Postrevolutionary Mexico (University of Arizona Press, 2020), was a finalist for the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association’s Best First Book Award in 2021.

Come learn from Dr. Varner in person at the Pine Meadow Ranch Open Studio on March 21, from 4-6:00 PM. The event is free but registration is required.

Published On: March 14th, 2024 / Categories: Pine Meadow Ranch, Pine Meadow Ranch Programs /