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Animalising rural societies: Human-animal entanglements in a neoliberal world

Working Group 24: Animalising rural societies: Human-animal entanglements in a neoliberal world

Katrina Brown [1], Rhoda Wilkie [2], Dominic Duckett [1], John Bone [2]
1: James Hutton Institute, UK; 2: University of Aberdeen, UK

Neoliberalism, as it is mobilised through economic and governance arrangements, material practices and discursive processes, influences the nature, extent and place of human-animal interactions in rural societies. These types of socio-economic mobilisations not only permeate and shape a wide range of rural activities, practices and contexts (e.g. agriculture, aquaculture, tourism, conservation and recreational pursuits) they also produce novel constellations and hybridised configurations. Although different species and breeds of animals are pivotal to the creation and maintenance of different types of (human) rural economies the extent to which interspecies entanglements are overtly acknowledged in such analyses is currently underappreciated. This Working Group seeks to address this interspecies blind spot by animalising our understanding of rural societies in a Neoliberal world. By attending to such ‘zoological connections’ and exploring the diversity of people’s (e.g. land managers, employees, consumers, visitors, and others) relationships to and economic dependence on other animals, it will offer both a timely and critical reminder that more or less thriving ruralities are configured, albeit to varying degrees, through ‘more-than-human’ interconnections.

Possible questions addressed might include (but are not restricted to):

  • How are more-than-human agencies, knowledges and ways of knowing enrolled into neoliberal processes, governance and decision-making frameworks?
  • How are animal-human relationships configured and changed with regard to processes of commodification, commercialisation and enclosure?
  • How do biotechnology and biosecurity reshape human-animal interactions? (e.g. genetically modified animals for food, epidemiological and zoonotic risk, surveillance, animal alienation, biopolitics).
  • How are rural spaces produced as places of conservation (rare breeds, local breeds, traditional breeds, protected and endangered species) and places of production?  Likewise, how does the concurrent intensification and extensification of agricultural and conservation practices matter?
  • How are notions of justice, ethics and responsibility mobilised with regard to animal-human entanglements in the economic and moral ordering of rural space?
  • How do particular bodily, technological, affective and sensory relations become enrolled between animals and humans, and how are these entangled in neoliberal structures and processes?
  • What are the implications of neoliberal processes for animal disease and animal health? (e.g. epidemiological and zoonotic risks, outbreaks, pandemics, risk and the limits of modernity, breeding for health as opposed to breeding for production)
  • Where are the key tensions between human and animal health/wellbeing?
  • What are the opportunities and challenges of applying interspecies scholarship to the understanding of the rural realm, and what kinds of conceptual and methodological tools, techniques and technologies might we need to address them?