The 'taking place' of health and wellbeing: towards non-representational theory

Soc Sci Med. 2014 May;108:210-22. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.02.037. Epub 2014 Feb 24.


For the last two decades health geography has focused on the dynamics between health and place. Although the social constructivist perspective of much research has provided many insights into the meanings of health and health care arguably, mirroring progress in the parent discipline of human geography, there could be a far more serious engagement with non-representational theory and the 'taking place' of health and health care. To showcase the importance and potential of this broadly, the idea of wellbeing is re-approached. The paper reflects on the ways wellbeing has been treated in research primarily as a meaningful and relatively prescribed state of life, to the neglect of process. Based on this critique, a qualitative study then illustrates the most immediate and everyday ways wellbeing might arise through 'affect'; the pre-personal mobile energies and intensities that result from physical encounters within assemblages of bodies and objects. Indeed, theoretically the findings support the proposition that, at one level, wellbeing might not be taken from environment but instead might emerge as the affective environment. They certainly raise awareness of how much in health might originate at the surface, prior to meaning, within life's infinite spatial doings, and thus they launch some final thoughts on the wider challenges and opportunities for non-representational health geographies.

Keywords: Affect; Health and place; Health geography; Non-representational theory.

MeSH terms

  • Affect*
  • Canada
  • Environment*
  • Geography, Medical
  • Health*
  • Humans
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Theory