Constructing rural natures
As our epigram suggests, this is an inauspicious moment to consider the constructedness of rural natures. In relation to those myriad things conventionally labelled as 'natural', rural studies is fast entering a 'post-constructivist' moment. 1 Today the non-human is being granted a constitutive role in rural life within a non-dualistic, antiessentialist worldview. This moment follows hard on the heels of nature's 'return' to rural studies from the late 1980s and through the 1990s. Over a decade ago, nature gained a long overdue place on rural researchers' agendas by, paradoxically, being de-naturalized. As we shall demonstrate in this chapter, the idea that rural natures were socially constructed inspired 10 years of interesting and important research. Today, though, enthusiasm for the social construction thematic is on the wane. In rural studies, as in several other research fields (like human geography and environmental sociology), this is because the philosophical limits of constructionist arguments have been exposed (see Chapters 12 and 13, this volume). This is a positive development because it has opened the door for approaches to rural natures that do not rest upon ontological separations and the explanatory-normative frameworks that such separations have inspired.
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