Amenity migrants, animals and ambivalent natures: more-than-human encounters at home in the rural residential estate
In light of increased development pressure in rural landscapes, understanding how amenity migrants understand and experience nature is a vital project for rural studies. This paper investigates how residents living in a rural residential estate (RRE) negotiate more-than-human encounters in domestic settings. RREs are emergent forms of master-planned residential development on the rural-urban fringe, marketed and designed to meet an idyllic rural lifestyle. In the RRE, domestic nonhuman transgressions are both presumed as a part of the amenity migrant experience, and pre-empted by estate design and regulation. Border encounters in gardens were explored via semi-structured walking interviews with 27 residents of an RRE, located on the rural-urban fringe of Sydney, Australia. Nonhuman transgressions were found to both contribute towards, and challenge, homemaking practices. Some residents expressed a vernacular ecology at home entangled with more-than-human company, where nonhumans are 'neighbours'. Gardens were shared, and maintenance practices altered. When domestic expectations of cleanliness and order were challenged, native nonhumans were negotiated in gardens with a 'hoped-for absence' (Ginn, 2014). These stories illustrate that a native politics of belonging foreshadows the homemaking practices of amenity migrants. The paper suggests settlements similar to RRE can be a positive intervention on the rural-urban fringe, encouraging different registers of interaction with nonhuman nature.