Paul March

DPhil in Archaeology


Art-making and 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.


Playing with clay and the uncertainty of agency. A Material Engagement Theory Perspective. March, P.L. Phenom Cogn Sci (2017).





Papers and lectures

March P (2015) Who’ Zoomin’ Who?  The Agency of Clay. Conference Paper presented at the Centre for Human Activity Annual Symposium 2015. (University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark)