A place to be well: an ethnographic study of health and wellbeing at a Chinese community centre in the north of England.

  • Naomi Wood

Student thesis: Phd


Research demonstrates that perspectives of health and illness vary by social and cultural context. This has implications for the ways in which people experience and respond to health and illness and becomes particularly important when people face major social and cultural change through migration. This is explored in this study through the relationship between health and place. The location for the study is a Chinese community centre, in which the centre members are first generation migrants from Hong Kong, China and Vietnam, aged 50 and over, who have spent the larger part of their lives living in the UK. The study uses the concept of therapeutic landscapes as an analytical lens through which to explore understandings of health and illness, issues of identity and belonging, and practices of wellbeing as they are enacted outside of formal healthcare settings.As an ethnographic study, the primary means of data collection has been through participant observation. This included regular attendance at the community centre to participate in activities and events over a period of ten months from August 2013 to May 2014. Twenty one formal interviews were also conducted with members of the community centre, the majority in English, and several in Cantonese. The migration stories of the participants in the study are explored as gendered experiences; that is, that the men and women experienced, and spoke about, migration differently. For the women in particular, their experiences of migration were recalled as a time of profound loneliness and isolation. Understandings of health and illness among the centre members are also explored. A shared understanding of health as a holistic and collective concept was expressed. In particular, they spoke about maintaining a positive attitude in the face of difficulties, about their own health in terms of family and social relationships, and the importance of being together and being active. The choices that they make around the use of Chinese and/or biomedicine are also explored within the context of this understanding. The experiences of migration and the understandings of health and illness are further explored through a consideration of the everyday practices, and associated materialities, that constitute the day-to-day life of the centre. These are explored as ways of re-connecting with the past and maintaining a sense of identity, but also as ways of negotiating both continuity and change at the same time. The role of the community centre in the lives of its members, and the ways in which they interact with one another in this particular place, is approached through the concept of therapeutic landscapes. The day-to-day activities, and the ways in which the centre members participate in these are presented as everyday practices of care; as the enactment of a particular understanding of health and wellbeing that helps to create a sense of identity and belonging at the community centre, which in turn contributes to the health and wellbeing of the centre members.
Date of Award31 Dec 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCaroline Sanders (Supervisor) & Anne Segar (Supervisor)


  • Therapeutic landscapes
  • Practices of care
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Migration
  • Chinese

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