Clay as a Medium in Three-Dimensional Body Mapping


  • Tricia Ong Deakin University
  • David Mellor Deakin University
  • Sabrina Chettri Caritas Nepal



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


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.


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Author Biographies

Tricia Ong, Deakin University

Tricia ONG, PhD, has recently held the role of an associate lecturer, theater-based education programs, in the School of Health and Social Development at Deakin University, which uses one-actor performances and a panel discussion to address the public health issues of violence against women and trans and gender diversity. She also teaches into a broad range of units in the master of public health, master of health promotion, and master of health and human services, and similar undergraduate units. She has a PhD in public health, a master of creative arts therapy, a graduate certificate in business management (project management) and other global women's health certifications. Results from her PhD were published in Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters. Independently, she is collaborating with UK and Nepal researchers and partners to facilitate clay body mapping workshops on the Dignity Without Danger menstruation project in Nepal.

David Mellor, Deakin University

David MELLOR, PhD is a retired clinical psychologist and academic who has undertaken and published on the outcomes of many cross-cultural research projects. His primary research focus has been on health issues related to children and adolescents. He graduated from the University of Melbourne with a bachelor of science (honors) degree and later a PhD. In between, he completed a master's degree in clinical psychology at the University of Western Australia, a diploma of education at Murdoch University, and a diploma in social sciences at Stockholm University. He also supervised Tricia ONG's PhD. He taught undergraduate psychology courses and was chair of the psychology programs at Deakin University, and also associate dean (international) for the Faculty of Health before retiring in 2018. He now holds the appointment of emeritus professor.

Sabrina Chettri, Caritas Nepal

Sabrina CHETTRI has a bachelor of social work degree and is currently working as a protection and psychosocial support worker project officer at Caritas Nepal. She was the interpreter and research assistant for Tricia ONG and co-facilitator of the clay body mapping workshops. She also contributed significantly to the development of the CERM in Nepal.




How to Cite

Ong, T., Mellor, D., & Chettri, S. (2020). Clay as a Medium in Three-Dimensional Body Mapping. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 21(2).