Doctoral Research in Social Sculpture

For people interested in doing practice-based research and theoretical explorations in social sculpture and related areas. The options are: practice-based, part practice-part text, and purely text-based.

Doctoral research in the field of Social Sculpture and related areas can be ‘practice-based’, part practice – part theory, or 100% theory.

The ‘related areas’ are: Art and Sustainability, Connective Practices and Activism, Relational and Connective Aesthetics, Social Sculpture and Ecological Citizenship, the connection between Imagination and Transformation as well as more theoretical work on Joseph Beuys, Rudolf Steiner, Goethe and Schiller.

Doing a practice-based interdisciplinary Doctorate in Social Sculpture does not require that you have an ‘arts’ background. But you are most likely to have a strong interest in the role of imagination in transformation, irrespective of your disciplinary background.

The ‘practice-based’ programme entails establishing research questions and then researching these questions in and through the practice. The 15,000 to 20,000 word commentary undertaken at the end of this process, is more of a route map – describing, analysing and reflecting on the whole enquiry.

The 50/50 ‘part practice, part theory’ option is similar, although the theory element is required to build an ‘argument’. In other words, the research questions are explored, not only through the practice, but also in a more traditional ‘humanities’ style way – through argumentation and logic.

The 100% ‘theory’ option explores the research questions by means of a logical inquiry articulated in a traditional textual thesis.

The Doctoral Programme in Social Sculpture is tutored by Prof. Shelley Sacks and Dr. Wolfgang Zumdick in conjunction with other departmental staff such as Ray Lee and Dr. Paul Whitty, as appropriate.

Prof. Walter Kugler, Dr. Graham van Wyk and other SSRU Associates – may also form part of the supervisory team as Special Advisors.

The PhD programme is 3 years full-time, or 5 years part-time. Students develop their practice ‘in the world’ during this period. Therefore part-time need not mean a long suspension of ones practice. On the contrary, a practice-base PhD is rather a continuation of practice – but within a structured and reflective dialogue process.

We now have six completions:
Dr. Nicholas Stronczyk – examined by Prof. John Newling
Dr. Mary-lou Barratt examined by Dr. Isis Brook
Dr. Petra Johnson examined by Dr. Iain Biggs
Dr. Maris Palmi examined by Isis Brook
Dr. Claudia Schluermann – examined by Dr. Isis Brook
Dr. Jo Thomas examined by Prof. Chris Dorset.

There are currently 11 Social Sculpture related PhDs in progress (Beatrice Catazaro, Markus Stefan, Annelinde Kirchgaesser, Axel Ewald, Anna van Zelderen, Wilfred Ukpong, Charlotte Heffernan, Charisse Baker, Dr. Helena Fox, Dianne Regisford, Hans Goettel, Stephan Siber, and several others in the process of enrolment).

These Social Sculpture / Art and Sustainability / Connective Practices / Acoustic Ecology / Ecological Citizenship / Social Sculpture theory PhDs are within an Arts Department that now has a total of 48 PhD students.

The PhD students regularly interact with the postgraduate students doing the MA Interdisciplinary Arts programme. There are currently 28 students on this Masters programme, of which the MA Social Sculpture forms a significant part.

This is not a taught PhD programme. However, new PhD students are able and encouraged to sit in on one semester of the taught MA in Social Sculpture.

Although not a ‘taught’ programme, there is regular supervision, as well as many opportunities for group discussion and sharing ones work if students are based in the UK.

There are also regular fora in which PhD Social Sculpture students participate. These include the 7 to 8 PhD Social Sculpture fora per year; fortnightly fora for all School of Arts PhD students that explore more generic questions related to your research; regular university-wide generic research training sessions throughout the period of your research.

Each student designs their own programme in dialogue with their Director of Studies.

An outline of your desired focus or area of study (1 to 2 A4 sides) can be submitted to Shelley Sacks as the basis for a preliminary discussion.


If this first outline seems viable you will then be asked to write and submit a more formal ‘Application to Enroll’ through UKPass.

The research programme and the payment of any fees begins only once your have formally been accepted and enrolled.

Please get in touch if you would like to undertake a PhD in Social Sculpture or closely related topics.

Alternatively, you can make an initial application directly through UKPass: Contact Amy Groeneveld at Oxford Brookes for further details:



Baker, Charisse [Details to follow]

Catazaro, Beatrice
– Participatory Art Practice: New Understandings of Intersubjective Space, Including Special Reference to the Bait al Karama (House of Dignity), in the Old City of Nablus, in the Palestinian Occupied Territories [Working title] (More coming soon)

Ewald, Axel 
– Reclaiming the Soul of Landscape and Reclaiming Landscape for the Soul: the Creation of Arenas for Imaginative Engagement with Place and its Fabric in an Ecologically Challenging, Socially and Politically Charged Environment (Read more)

Fox, Helena – 
From Anaesthetic to Aesthetic in the Clinic: an Enquiry into the Role of Embodied Ways of Knowing and ‘Connective Aesthetic’ Practices as a Further Dimension to Evidence-based Knowledge in Healthcare (Read more)

Goettel, Hans
 – The International Community as a Work of Art: Explorations of Dag Hammarskjoeld´s Lifework in Theory and Practice with Special Reference to the Field of Social Sculpture (Read more)

Heffernan, Charlotte
– Listening to All the Signals: Sense, Impulse, and the Fabric of Experience (More coming soon)

Kirchgaesser, Annelinde
[Details to follow]

Regisford, Dianne – 
Beyond fragile beings in fragile states: Explorations in the Field of Social Sculpture Towards Strengthening Urban Resilience through Transformative Participatory Governance  in Sustainable Development Practice (More coming soon)

Siber, Stephan – 
Aesthetic Education and Social Sculpture: Heinrich Marianus Deinhardt’s Unnoticed Contribution to the Evolution of Joseph Beuys’ ‘Expanded Conception of Art’ (More coming soon)

Stefan, Markus
[Details to follow]

Ukpong, Wilfred
 – Blazon Chapters: Creative Interventions in the Margin of Two Worlds – Art and Social Praxis (Read more)

van Zelderen, Anna
[Details to follow]


Barratt, Mary-lou – WE ARE THE REVOLUTION? – The ‘Creative Social Action’ of La Fiambrera, Skart and Superflex, and its Contribution to Sustainable Social Change (More coming soon)

Johnson, Petra
Social Sculpture Practices as a Means of Valuing and Engaging with the Hidden Life of a Locality (Read more)

Palmi, Maris – The Role of the Artistic Mode in Transformative Process and its Transdisciplinary Relevance (More coming soon)

Schluermann, Claudia – ‘Material’ as Gateway to Other Forms of Knowing: What the Secrets in Materials and Processes Have to Offer in the Field of Transformative Social Practice (Read more)

Stronczyk, Nicholas – ‘Thinking in Form and (In)formed Thought’: An Exploration of Aesthetic Strategies and Methodologies in New Art Practices, with Special Reference to Joseph Beuys’ ‘Expanded conception of Art’ (More coming soon)

Thomas, Jo – Presencing Place: an Enquiry into the Knowing and Shaping of Place Through Expanded Art Practices (Read more)


See Students section for details of their research projects



The Postgraduate Administrator Amy Groeneveld: or
The Postgraduate Tutor Ray Lee:

Please note: We currently have a waiting list, one of interested people and others who have already submitted proposals. Until there are further completion we cannot take on anymore more Social Sculpture PhDs, practice or theory.

We are nevertheless always interested to learn about your proposals.

However, given how full we are, priority will now be given to proposals that are closely related to the field of contemporary social sculpture.

You do not need to live in Oxford to do a PhD. But you do need to participate several times per year in the Social Sculpture PhD Forum, and attend some of the fortnightly Research Sessions offered by Dr. Ray Lee