We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham e-Theses
You are in:

Moving together: An ethnography of movement volunteering

TUPPER, EMILY (2022) Moving together: An ethnography of movement volunteering. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis explores “movement volunteering” which is an emerging form of volunteering in the UK bringing together volunteering with physical activity. In movement volunteering, the moving body is instrumental for generating the outcomes of the volunteer programmes, from environmental projects working on the landscape to social projects which use the mobility of the volunteer to bring people together in a way that is designed to be mutually beneficial.

This thesis draws on 15 months of ethnographic fieldwork in three different movement volunteering programmes, located in two northern English cities in the UK. The programmes had a shared aim of doing good through mobilising bodies, which was achieved variously through walking, cycling, and running. I explore how movement and volunteering come together in the programmes to create a range of wellbeing, social, and therapeutic effects.

Firstly, I show how the movement volunteering programmes create new forms and styles of movement which disrupt existing practices whilst enabling new ones, and how movement was experienced by both volunteers and beneficiaries in the programmes. I also explore the relational aspects of moving together, and how these new forms and styles of movement provoked an awareness, sensitivity, and trust which were necessary when people with different mobilities come together.

Secondly, I show how in movement volunteering, bodies move not just with others but for others. In the programmes, meanings around “movement” – such as health and pleasure – complicate existing assumptions about volunteering. The movement volunteers in the programmes have different ways of understanding the impact of what they were doing, and I explore this through their own voices and experiences. I set these findings in the context of the constantly evolving voluntary sector in the UK, and consider how movement volunteering enabled people to connect with others in an embodied way that felt “productive” and meaningful.

Thirdly, I discuss how movement volunteering constitutes an intervention in the physical and social landscape, and I explore the intentional and spillover effects of this intervention. I show how the movement of bodies through public spaces “stirs up” and constitutes landscapes, disrupting everyday landscapes and making connections across time and space. I argue that this epistemological approach to landscape and place is necessary to fully capture the interactions between the moving body and the environment that we see in movement volunteering.

Throughout the thesis I build a theoretical understanding of moving together for the purposes of doing good, building on literature that explores the processes and meanings of moving together in a range of sport, exercise, and everyday contexts, for example group walking, pilgrimage, and endurance running. A key finding of this thesis is that movement volunteering constitutes a new way of being and moving together, which reframes the public health “problem” of physical inactivity by moving the focus from individual bodies to the spaces between bodies, and the spaces, environments, and organisational contexts that enable bodies to move together.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:13 Jun 2022 14:43

Social bookmarking: del.icio.usConnoteaBibSonomyCiteULikeFacebookTwitter