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Versions of animal—human
Broadland, c. 1945-1970
David Matless
[Y]ou need one thing above all in order to practise the requisite art of
reading, a thing which today people have been so good at forgetting—
and so it will be some time before my writings are 'readable'—, you
almost need to be a cow for this one thing and certainly not a 'modern
man': it is rumination…
(Nietzsche 1994:10)
This essay considers material from the Norfolk Broads in the decades after the
Second World War. The Broads, a region of shallow lakes and interconnecting
rivers in eastern England, have been a key site for the development of conservation
practice, and the disputed nature of conservation, and the human—animal relations
that it presupposes, runs through the paper. The animal here marks out different
cultures of nature in the region, each of which entails different claims to speak for
the place and rests variously on practices of watching, listening, recording and
killing. My concern is for how animal and human became enfolded as subjects and
objects; while the final part of the essay focuses on specific species, the starting-point
is not a concern for animals per se . A relational sense of the subject—object, with
human and non-human as objects and subjects in the story, generates various senses
of 'animal geography'. First, the assumption is that for all of these subjects—objects
life entails a becoming-through-environment (on debates concerning the nature of
animality and humanity, see Ingold 1988). Second, we find moral geographies of
human and animal conduct in terms of appropriate and inappropriate ways of being
in the region. Third, we encounter animal—human geographies in terms of a
spatial zoning reflecting and reinforcing differences in human activity, habitat,
property relations and regimes of management.
The first part of the essay outlines two ways in which animals act to define a
relational human: first as visceral observers, second as reserved watchers and
listeners. Each version of animal—human produces and is produced through a
different mode of human authority, each involves a negotiation of different scales of
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