Inclusion and exclusion of the rural… – Jan Schakel in Rennes – Part 4

As I wrote before, there are many relations between the urban and the rural. I just mentioned some of them: the markets, the food,  the regional identity, the life histories of families and …. biking trails… Although many people (in Rennes) don’t recognize this aspect, they do agree when I explain it to them. Maybe it’s too familiar to them –it might be in their backbone. But maybe also, because many Rennes’ peoples are getting very global: they just travel by car, TGV, Thalys or plane. Not any more by bike. Anyway, every day –after work- I’ll take my Batavus, and start roaming around. But when sunsets starts, I go to the écluse de St Martin’ (“shiplock”),  just nearby the Agrocampus. It is exactly on the edge of the city and the countryside. I go there, just to experience a beautiful phenomenon. I am not the only one that goes to that place. When it’s getting dawn, I see ten, hundred, thousand and ten thousands, maybe even millions of birds (starlings) coming back from the countryside. I don’t know where they have been all day, but every night the gather together on the electricity pylons and its wires; they come from everywhere, with thousands and thousands. Like me, but I’m there just to watch them. It almost takes an hour when they’re “all there”..(although I do not count them).  And then, suddenly (who said to leave; which bird took the initiative; and why?) they disappear, and they all go into the city. I’ve been told that they always go to the same places, and that hundreds of  trees are fully loaded with birds, really: fully loaded, and you can listen all night to their talks and stories…you can’t even sleep. But the next morning: they all have left. Where have they gone? Fascinating. But even more astonishing is the fact that this daily rural-urban migration became part of an urban ‘exclusion’ policy. The birds are not welcome anymore in the city, at least: not everywhere. For example, in the luxurious  Avenue de Jean Janvier (just opposite the central railway station)all trees are covered with nets(see picture), so the birds can’t have their sleep there anymore. I noticed these nets one morning on my daily trip to the station to buy my “de Volkskrant”. Rennes is changing … Anyway; the peoples who I asked about these nets, they just shook their head; they didn’t understand it either. Why exclude the birds…?

Some years ago, Rudolf van Broekhuizen and I did some research on “breeding and culture” as part of the EU funded project called “Sustainable Farm Animal Breeding and Reproduction” (SEFABAR). We studied the cultural context of breeding (for four species: poultry, pigs, ruminants and aquaculture)in 6 different countries.  France was one of them, together with the USA, Thailand, Norway, Italy and the Netherlands (by the way: why do I have to say in French that ‘je suis Hollandais, je parle Neerlandais, et je habit a Pays Bas’? Three words for one nationality; rather complicated!). Anyway, breeding can be embedded in or intertwined with culture in many ways and with different meanings. Although we noticed –especially in breeding – an ongoing process of globalization, we also noticed processes of (re-)localization. Our main conclusion was: culture and context still do matter! In Italy for example, breeding is strongly related to food, and in France breeding still is deeply rooted in the region: ‘origine’, ‘identity’ and ‘terroir’ are the keywords  to understand the cultural context of French breeding.

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