Moral terrains: An Anthropology of Green Social Prescribing

Year of award: 2022


  • Dr Rosie Jones McVey

    University of Exeter, United Kingdom

Project summary

This is an anthropological investigation of the moral terrains navigated by those engaged in Green Social Prescribing in the UK.

Green Social Prescribing is a new government initiative intended to tackle health inequalities and improve mental wellbeing while simultaneously alleviating the need-supply shortfall in NHS mental health provision. Green Social Prescribing involves referring people into voluntary sector organisations that engage with nature, including city farms and gardening groups.

My research uses 13 months of ethnographic fieldwork and two rounds of semi-structured interviews to investigate the moral experience of being prescribed access to nature and the moral challenges involved in delivering this form of care. This research attends to staff and service users' perspectives and explores Green Social Prescribing as a site of multiple and sometimes conflicting moral values. It investigates how the ideals of connecting well with nature, and connecting well with others, interact with biomedical sensibilities. It considers how responsibilities and obligations are distributed, negotiated and experienced. Finally, it investigates the impact of particular environments on the moral relationships formed within them.

This research is ground-breaking, in that it initiates a new trajectory for medical anthropology, investigating the role morality plays in mediating relationships between nature and health.