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Accepted Paper:

Walking in Skye and Raasay: incorporating 'nature' and enacting 'dùthchas' in the pursuit of health  
Esther Kaner (UCL)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the adoption of 'nature-based' health promotion initiatives on the Scottish islands of Skye and Raasay. I examine the therapeutic use of the natural environment, situating my analysis within broader conceptual and historical debates concerning the use and value of nature.

Paper long abstract:

In Scotland, significant attention has been afforded to the so-called ‘natural’ environment as a way to mitigate health inequalities. Initiatives like ‘Our Natural Health Service’ draw upon an ever-expanding body of research documenting the salutogenic effects of exposure to green space (Hartig et al., 2014). Taking a critical biosocial approach, I explore what is meant by ‘nature’ and how such meanings shape healing practices (Yates-Doerr, 2020)? Why is it that ‘nature’ - framed simultaneously as an anxiolytic aesthetic resource (Ulrich, 1993) and a space of sensorial enrichment (Janssen et al., 2018) - is imagined to exert such radical effects on individual bodies and populations? In this paper, I consider the adoption of nature walks and ‘forest bathing’ - sensory immersion in a wooded environment (Hansen et al., 2017) - as health promotion initiatives on the Hebridean islands of Skye and Raasay. I ask, how is ‘nature’ defined and understood in such practices, and how is the environment incorporated through acts of emplaced movement and interspecies interaction (Ingold, 2000)? I intend to complexify public health frames concerning access to green space and its resulting effects on the body by deconstructing the discursive practices by which nature is transformed into a healing instrument. Furthermore, I invoke the Gaelic concept of dùthchas (Ní Mhathúna, 2019) to examine the diverse means by which histories of dispossession, imperial entanglement, and more-than-human ecologies come to shape both the textures of local landscapes and the means by which these are apprehended somatically.

Panel P108
Biosocial approaches to health and environment
  Session 2