“Who milks the cows at Maesgwyn?” The animality of UK rural landscapes in affective registers

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Jones, O. (2013)

Rural landscapes in the UK (and beyond) are rich in animal presences. This paper first discusses how these presences, and human engagements with them, form key elements of individual and collective practices and imaginings of rural life. These presences come in many interrelating, messy, uneven and contest(ed)(ing) forms, such as companion animals, wildlife, livestock farming, hunting, shooting and fishing. In the shifting matrices of interconnecting 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 changing. Secondly I argue that the animalness of rurality is far more strongly represented in popular culture (television, film, literature) that it has been in academic readings of the rural. Thirdly I argue that much of the import and richness of animality-rurality is articulated in affective/emotional registers. We 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 rural landscapes and the practices of relational, affective, everyday life, both of humans and non-humans, within them. Affective registers are in turn always entangled in a range of related questions and issues which include politics, human well-being/health, identity, animal welfare/ ethics and socio-ecological sustainability more broadly.
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