Paul Louis March

DPhil in Archaeology


Hand-Clay Coordination. Sculpture as a method of exploring and extending the ontological implications of Material Engagement Theory

Research abstract

The standard division of the world  into subjects and objects results in the separation of  knowledge from being. As an artist working with clay I find this division difficult to maintain. When sculpting, knowing appears indistinguishable from making.  The creative act is inseparable from the manipulation of the medium and thinking takes place in front of me  - between my hands and the clay.

With regard to the development of archaeological artefacts, Malafouris (2013) offers us  Material Engagement Theory (MET) as a way of describing how thinking, the making of things and the making of meanings occurs as a process in the world rather than as an act of imagination  in the brain.

I am using MET to explore the process of sculpting in order to test the notion that sensing, feeling and thinking are not spatially located but arise out of a  change-of-state from material interaction to quasi-temporal phenomenological experience. I wish to move away from an understanding of art works (and artefacts in general) as static, crystallised remains of past human activity and towards a view of artefacts-in-the-making as active co-creators of a fluctuating  sense of ourselves- delineated neither by the boundaries of the brain nor of the body.


Dr Lambros Malafouris, Johnson Research and Teaching Fellow in Creativity, Cognition and Material Culture



I trained as a Clinical Psychologist with postgraduate training in systemic theory and cognitive neuropsychology. I have a degree in fine art and a postgraduate diploma in ceramics. I am a Chartered Member of the British Psychological Society and a member of the Swiss Ceramics Association. 

Since undergraduate days I have been interested in the complexities of object recognition. After working as an artist for a while, this interest became incorporated into my artistic activity. By manipulating clay I can engage directly with the process of recognition - more importantly, I can subvert it. It appears that the playfulness of clay has ontological implications… I started my DPhil in 2016.


March, P., 2020. Project Holocene: The Clayful Phenomenology of Jōmon Flame Pots. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 1-19.

Vallée‐Tourangeau, F. & March, P.L., 2019. Insight Out: Making Creativity Visible. The Journal of Creative Behavior,

March, P.L., 2019. Playing with clay and the uncertainty of agency. A Material Engagement Theory perspective. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 18(1), pp.133–151.




Papers and lectures

March, P.L., (2019) Do Extended Minds have Material Dreams ? Paper presented at the Theoretical Archaeology Group Conrerence, London UK.

March PL (2018) Creating Experience: how playing with clay can help you lose your mind. Paper presented at the Royal Anthropological  Society conference, London UK;  Art Materiality and Representation

March PL (2018) Modelling the Future:  how playing with clay could cause the collapse of western civilization. Paper presented at Museum of York (UK) conference; Restating Clay.