• Advancing rural as ‘something more than a human estate’: Exploring UK sheep-shaping

      Williams, Fiona; Halfacree, Keith; Swansea University; University of Chester (Elsevier, 2021-10-01)
      Periodically, the topic of defining rural is addressed within rural social science scholarship but done so in overwhelmingly human terms. This paper engages with this observation, arguing the simple but axiomatic point that the rural is not solely a human taxonomic creation but expresses a space that integrally and intimately involves the more-than-human. Consequently, the latter should be strongly, firmly and richly represented up-front within the defining rural debate. Adopting an established if, to date, still anthropocentricised three-fold model of rural space, the paper argues that each dimension – localities, representations, lives – feature the more-than-human in both passive and active ways. Overall, bringing more-than-human perspectives much further to the fore consolidates the idea of rural as inherently co-produced, a ‘baroque assemblage’ containing many more-than-human living things. Accounts of animals within such a rural must recognise their emplacing from a diversity of foci, interests and consequences. The paper begins to introduce details of this diverse co-production with respect to one ubiquitous rural animal, the sheep. It illustrates the ‘ensheeping’ of rural localities, representations and lives, with the practical significance of this brought together and drawn out through two rival accounts of sheep within the Lake District National Park. Finally, the seemingly modest call for rural studies to embrace animals more fully is argued to be enhanced today by ongoing and potentially imminent experiences impacting strongly on rural places.