Nathalie Blanc

Animals in an Urban Environment Publication date : October 1, 2000

In an urban environment, what is the status of wanted animals such as pet dogs and cats? What is the status of unwanted animals such as pigeons, rats and cockroaches? What do wanted and unwanted animals represent in the popular imagination? What effect do animals have on the concept and management of urban areas? Based on a series of enquiries undertaken over a period of several years in various French cities (namely Rennes, Lyons and Paris), Nathalie Blanc shows that the significance that pets have recently acquired in urban life should not be dismissed, as it often is, as the expression of a lack of affection in the lives of city dwellers. Instead, the author views the presence of animals as a reflection of a deeper feeling concerning the role of life and nature in contemporary urban societies. If we accept that cities are the artificial, unnatural places that they have often been described as being, how should we regard animals in the city: as successfully domesticated animals — or as unnatural creatures? Do animals illustrate the persistence, within our urban space, of a natural, wild, uncontrollable world? The author examines the way citizens cope with their desire for pets in an urban environment, and analyses how pet owners deal with and care for these living creature, whether or not they obey them. She then goes on to address some basic questions about the role of nature in the city, and the nature of the city.

Nathalie Blanc is a researcher specialising in urban geography, at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. She has been working for several years on the place and role of nature in an urban environment.