"Who Milks the Cows at Maesgwyn?" The Animality of UK Rural Landscapes in Affective Registers
Landscapes are complex outplays of intersecting flows of agency in which humans and non-humans combine in a series of registers, and in cycles of comings and goings to make meshworks of life in place. The presence of animals in some landscapes can be particularly culturally, politically, ecologically, and economically significant but are often overlooked or only partially acknowledged. Here I focus on UK rural landscapes which are rich in animal presences both historically and today. I show how animal presences, and human engagements with them, form key elements of individual and collective practices and imaginings of identity. These presences come in many interrelating, messy, and contesting forms, such as companion animals, wildlife, agricultural livestock, and animals bound up with conservation and field sports. In the shifting meshworks of social, cultural, economic, political and ecological forces at work in rural landscapes, the composition of these animal presences, and the natures of these encounters, will be ever-changing but also retain familiar themes and iconographies. I argue that the animality of rurality is far more strongly represented in popular culture (television, film, literature) than it has been in academic readings of the rural. I also suggest that much of the exchange that makes up animality-rurality meshworks is articulated in affective/emotional registers. Landscape and rural studies need to develop awareness of these registers, and means by which they can be more sensitively investigated. This will be an important step in developing our understandings of all landscapes and the practices of relational, affective, everyday life, both of humans and non-humans, within them.
Volume (Year): 38 (2013)
Issue (Month): 4 (August)
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