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Title: Therapeutic landscapes as assemblages, actor-networks and contingent affordances : the example of Saltwell Park
Author: Medford, Wayne O'Neill
ISNI:       0000 0004 2722 3810
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2012
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My doctoral research is situated within Geographies of Health, asking whether and how an urban public park is therapeutic. Specifically, the thesis is concerned with theorising what the physical, social and symbolic environments of the park consist of and how individual park users interact with those environments. The thesis used Gesler’s therapeutic landscape concept and typology as its starting point, but I have critiqued this typology for its boundedness, lack of temporal and material flux and implicit normative assumptions. The therapeutic landscape literature has rarely engaged with Post-structuralist and Non-Representational thinking, which are relatively rarely used within wider health geography discourse. I sought to include all observable elements within the composition of the park fabric, including, for example, weather and wildlife, and cultural images and individual representations, following from assemblagic and actor network thinking. I sought to gain as many perspectives about the park’s form and usage, obtaining empirical data through an innovative year-long mixed-methods approach of repeated ethnographic observation, participation observation, and purposive sampling semi-structured interviews, augmented where possible with an accompanying photovoice and mapping exercises. I spoke to nearly 60 people, respondents ranging from primary school children to new mothers to five male mental health service users. Within the text of this thesis, the empirical data has been mapped against the therapeutic landscapes’ typology of natural, social and symbolic environments. The ability of an individual to access and make beneficial use of the park depends upon their ability to gain physical, social and emotional access,. This is dependent upon factors such as physical proximity, social inclusion and the perception of the park. As such, the “therapeutic” is relational, a function of park-person interactions. The natural, social and symbolic environments typology should be seen as a series of assemblages of human and nonhuman elements that co-function under specific circumstances, and into which the park users situate themselves.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available