Clay as a Medium in Three-Dimensional Body Mapping

Tricia Ong, David Mellor, Sabrina Chettri


Body mapping is a visual (drawing) tool, technique and methodological process that has been used by practitioners and researchers in a variety of contexts across the world, including in sexual and reproductive health interventions and research. One of the benefits of body mapping is that it can be used with semi-literate and illiterate populations. In this article, we describe the limitations of traditional body mapping methods and the use of clay as a body mapping medium—a three-dimensional body mapping approach as compared to traditional two-dimensional approaches—within a methodology we call the clay embodiment research method (CERM). This methodology intertwines elements of ethnography, clay body mapping and group work. Its three interdependent components are a form of participant observation, a series of seven themed participatory clay body mapping workshops; and a group interview using photography of the clay works. We discuss the participants' experience in a study of reproductive health knowledge among trafficked women in Nepal in which we used CERM, noting the benefits they said they got from the process, such as developing and sharing knowledge, enjoying learning, allaying fears, promoting self-development, building confidence, enabling problem solving and educating others.


clay; three-dimensions; body mapping; embodiment; visual methods; participatory research; qualitative research

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Copyright (c) 2020 Tricia Ong, David Mellor, Sabrina Chettri

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