Doughty, Karolina Sofia Erika Ronander
Walking and well-being: landscape, affect, rhythm.
University of Southampton, School of Geography and Environment,
This thesis is an ethnographic exploration of group walking practices in the Hampshire countryside, investigating the embodied, affective and social practice of the shared walk and its relation to the individual pursuit of wellness. Responding to the growing literature in qualitative health geography using ‘therapeutic landscape’ as a conceptual framework, group walking practices are approached in this thesis from a perspective of more-than-representational theories of social practice that aims to address group dynamics and the role of social relations for the establishment of therapeutic spaces. While also drawing attention to the embodied and affective nature of experience, this thesis opens a discussion between health geography and cultural geographies on the issues of the body, mobility and collective experience. Further, the thesis aims to place the study findings within the wider cultural phenomena of ‘walking for health’ through an exploration of practices of assemblage. Deleuzian assemblage theory, both as a pragmatic analytical tool and an ontological position, offers a new approach to thinking health and place relationally, arguing for a distribution of agencies and providing a framework for tracing their emergent effects across complex networks.
The thesis finds its empirical focus in ethnographic fieldwork with five walking groups as well as individual mobile interviews. The findings discussed in the thesis firstly pertain to the significance of social relations for well-being, exploring the kinds of socialities that are produced while walking together, and arguing that the shared walk has the potential to establish a place-specific social aesthetic that can be experienced as restorative. Secondly, the rural walkscape as a therapeutic landscape is analysed as a specific outcome of place-based rhythms, implicated in the performativity and mobility of the body in the creation of a restorative place/practice. It is found that the shared walk is characterised by specific rhythmic qualities and that walking as a health practice is subject to a range of norms, regulations and performative styles.
The findings and conceptual development in this thesis contribute to an interrogation of the complex processes through which therapeutic landscapes are established, practiced and experienced. The thesis also contributes to more-than representational geographies of embodiment, affect and landscape, which are intimately tied up in the production and performance of both wellness and place.
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